INTERVIEW

Releasing a child’s ‘ inner wealth’

Program to help struggling youth opens in Milton

DeLisa Boyd, founder and CEO.
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By CANDY WAYLOCK
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If you are invested in your community, it is your responsibility to ignite the greatness in every child.”
DeLisa Boyd, owner The GEMS Network

DeLisa Boyd of Alpharetta knows all too well the importance of growing up surrounded by caring, supportive adults — especially when parents are not around to fill in the voids.

“I was that child who experienced being reared by a single parent and being subjected to not only verbal abuse but physical abuse as well,” said Boyd, who grew up in New Jersey. “But despite the negative, I had two aunts that thought the world of me and I thought the world of them.”

From a very young age, she knew her life path would be serving families and children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“I was just a girl from Rahway, NJ, with two dedicated maternal great-aunts that dedicated their lives to our family,” said Boyd, who went on to be the first in her family to earn a college degree.

The mother of three recently relocated to Alpharetta with her husband and children to continue the path she started in Princeton, N.J., with underserved children.

In January, Boyd opened The GEMS Network in Milton, focused on helping children who are challenged behaviorally, emotionally, socially or academically.

It follows the structure of the Nurtured Heart Approach (NHA) which focuses on building a child’s “inner wealth,” said Boyd.

The program, developed by Howard Glasser of the Children’s Success Foundation, works for all children, but is focused on the most challenging children, including those with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, anxiety disorders and self-injurious behaviors.

“There is no typical client because our goal is to build stronger communities, which includes in the home and school environments,” Boyd explained.

After two decades of working to improve the lives of children, Boyd said the Nurtured Heart Approach spoke to her like no other program had before. It is a curriculum for relationships based on three standards: refuse to energize negative behavior, energize the positive and establish clear rules and boundaries.

 “NHA supports adults in relating to children in ways that guide them to use their intensity successfully and positively,” she explained. “Children come to see their intensity as fuel for greatness, not as a deficit or a handicap.”

The GEMS Network works with children from preschool to 18, and Boyd works to involve the entire “village” in helping the child. She began a partnership with Alpharetta High School where two of her children attend, creating “Brand Ambassadors” for outreach to their peers.

“Indirectly, these young men and women will begin changing their language...which then changes the culture,” said Boyd, noting she is also working with Alpharetta Parks and Recreation and the city of Fairburn in South Fulton.

Boyd wakes each morning with a prayer to help parents in crisis, and to involve others in her mission.

“Dealing with intense children can be challenging and stressful,” Boyd said. “My prayer is that Georgia will embrace the approach as a standard for education. Whether they realize it or not, educators possess the power of speaking life or death into a child.”

At the same time, Boyd said children need to understand that the role model adults in their lives are examples of the future that lies ahead. ■

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