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Texas Bar Foundation Awards $12,500 to Cherish Our Children Inc’s GEMS Program

(Houston, TX) On April 23, 2024, The Texas Bar Foundation announced their approval of a $12,500 grant to support Cherish Our Children’s (COCI) Gaining Empowerment in Middle School Program (GEMS), a program dedicated to providing academic, social, and emotional support to middle school students who have an incarcerated family member. Since its inception in 1965, the Texas Bar Foundation has awarded more than $27 million in grants to law-related programs. Supported by members of the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Bar Foundation is the nation's largest charitably-funded bar foundation.


The GEMS program was launched in 2020 to target children during the critical middle school years, addressing the complex mix of school, family, and outside among early adolescent students to improve school attendance and performance.


“We are extremely grateful for the support of the Texas Bar Foundation,” said Conor Johnston, Managing Director for Alvarez and Marsal, and COCI’s Board Chair. “The Foundation has been a long-time supporter of our programs, and has helped transform the lives of hundreds of children with incarcerated family members. This funding will allow COCI to provide additional enrichment opportunities for our students and serve more families in need,” Johnston added.


Nearly 45,000 students in Houston area middle schools have at least one family member who has been incarcerated at some point in their lives. Research shows that children whose fathers have been incarcerated have only a 15% chance of graduating college, and only a 2% chance if their mother has been imprisoned. Children with incarcerated family members are 50% as likely to graduate from high school as children with non-incarcerated family, are twice as likely to undergo Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and are 25% more likely to have unmet mental health needs.

The GEMS program currently serves 97 students at schools in the HISD, Aldine, and Channelview school districts, located in low-performing community areas with student populations that are between 86-97% Black or Hispanic. Census Bureau research predicts that 1-in-5 male students at these schools will become incarcerated by the time they are adults. All students in the GEMS program qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program, 21% demonstrate limited English proficiency, and 60-73% of students are at-risk of dropping out.

COCI’s GEMS program utilizes best practices and evidence-based approaches to provide middle school students with the life skills they need to flourish, creating a strong pathway for them to successfully transition to high school and setting them on the path to graduation. To learn more about Cherish Our Children and the GEMS program, please visit

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