The 2020 Graduating Jewels of Les Gemmes, Inc.

Jewells l-r; Zion Smith, Iyanna McMaster, Kaylea Arnold, Shiloh Cobb, Shakira Cobb, Majesty Ford, Farran Stone, Chairperson Rene’ Whittaker, Alexius Smotherman, Loren Chumney, Eleana Stone, Jada Sutton, Xenia Rideout, Ashanti Chatman, and Payton Lowe. Not pictured: Atheia Smith

NASHVILLE, TN — Lighting the Path for Girls is the signature program of the Nashville Chapter of Les Gemmes, Inc. These beautiful and brilliant young ladies are selected to participate in the organization’s engaging scholarship

Charter Members, front row l-r; Mary Patrick Carver, Deborah Hirsch, Edwina Hefner, Dr. Evelyn Fancher, Lula Brooks, Ann Haynes; Back row l-r; Atty. Joy Sims, Leslie Drummond, Valencia Price, Judge Joyce Ball, Virginia Potts, Margaret McClain,
Gloria McKissack, Rosetta Miller Perry, and Hortense Price-Jones

program and are referred to as “Jewels.”  There are four Jewels who are part of the graduating class of 2020.  They are unique graduates during the COVID-19 pandemic and hail from three different high schools in the Nashville/ Davidson County area.  As a result of the protective health and safety measures in place all graduates had a non-traditional graduation ceremony at their individual high schools.

The members of the Nashville Chapter of Les Gemmes, Inc., will continue their celebration, which is an honored tradition of the organization by sharing the Jewels academic success and accomplishments with the community.  The group has honored the graduating Jewels with financial scholarship awards, gifts and resources for the last 13 years. Through our two major fundraisers; the Literary Luncheon, the Last Summer’s Fling events, and sponsorships, the Jewels will each receive new state-of-the-art laptop computers and academic scholarships to financially support them with their college expenses. The major sponsor of the Literary Luncheon is Advance Financial and the awarded scholarship is named in honor of Tina Hodges the current CEO of the company.

The Lighting the Path for Girls program was developed to provide young ladies ages 12 to 18 with an opportunity to grow and broaden their worldly knowledge base.  The Jewels are developed into good global citizens as they participate in service projects in the community with various Senior Citizen Centers, food projects, such as The Little Pantry and The Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. They also provided community support to families who were displaced in the March 3, 2020 tornado by helping with clean up efforts, food and clothing drives. 

Mentorship is a major component of the Jewels experiences.  They are provided with opportunities to shadow and model behaviors after seasoned professionals in the organization and external business associates across a broad range of industries and careers. 

Rene’ Whittaker, Chairperson of the Lighting the Path for Girls, Committee exudes excitement when she talks about

René Whittaker, Chairperson of the
Lighting the Path for Girls

the program and the joy of supporting and mentoring these outstanding Jewels. “I am honored to be a part of the transformation of these Jewels as they develop into successful educated, young women, who will change the world for the better.”

Les Gemmes hosted the Jewels virtual 2020 graduation ceremony via Zoom on Saturday, June 27, 2020.  Gifts and contributions are still being accepted to continue to praise and recognize them for their outstanding academic achievement of graduating from high school and participating in extracurricular activities, as well as workshops with Les Gemmes.  Please contact Rene Whittaker at 615.838.6164 or email her at [email protected] if you or a potential candidate is interested in becoming a Jewel for the next academic year.

The Nashville Chapter of Les Gemmes, Inc. was established in 2004 under the umbrella of the national organization that was established in Norfolk, Virginia in 1944.

These are our 2020 graduating Jewels.

Jewel Eleana Stone, Cumberland University

Jewel Eleana Stone

“Being in Les Gemmes has changed my life as a young female. I have been in the program since 7th grade, and ever since then I’ve learned how to be a young woman. Being a black woman in this world can be very hard and we struggle at times to find our place, but having a program like Les Gemmes teaches you to be proud to be a woman of color, and how to survive. I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in something so great. This program has really motivated me to do good in this world.”

Jewel Jada Sutton, University of Memphis

“The Les Gemmes program helped me grow. It taught me how to become a classy, graceful woman in this day & age  I have made so many lifelong friends in this group and every moment that I experienced is a moment that I

Jewel Jada Sutton

will cherish for eternity. I’m so thankful for each of these women who took their time to educate me and teach me how to be a better person inside and out. This program is a wonderful experience!”

Jada will receive the local 60 year old Rosetta Miller Perry Award for a University of Memphis freshman in the amount of $1,000. 

Jewel Ashanti Chatman, Lipscomb University

Jewel Ashanti Chatman

“To be a Jewel is an opportunity to step into your own destiny. Being a jewel is more than just a chance of becoming your own boss, it’s a chance for you to take another step in your life as a young woman, most importantly an African-American woman.  Being a jewel helped me grow personally from 5th-12th grades and knowing that positivity has always been a part of this program. I know that any goal that you set or any challenge you overcome, will be because you knew it was

Jewel Iyanna McMaster

possible to do and that’s what it means to be a Jewel.”

Jewel Iyanna McMaster, Alabama A&M

“Les Gemmes has taught me multiple things that I will take with me for the rest of my life. From learning how to make my voice heard in front of hundreds of people, to learning table etiquette has helped me to grow. I have been truly blessed to be in the presence of these women who cared about my well being and growth into a young woman.”

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