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Imagine you are just entering middle school. New school. New faces. New challenges as you enter early adolescence. Imagine trying to learn in the middle of a pandemic. Now imagine doing all of that while you wrestle with the trauma, the stress and the stigma of being the child of an incarcerated parent.

COCI created the GEMS-Gaining Empowerment in Middle School program to address those challenges and, through the incredible support of the community, we were able to launch GEMS at the start of 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic was peaking. 


We piloted GEMS in two Houston-area middle schools - Hoffman Middle School in Aldine ISD and Key Middle School in Houston ISD. We kept classes small due to COVID restrictions and focused a lot of our class time on the kinds of social and emotional skills our students need to navigate this incredibly difficult time. The daily disruptions from COVID didn’t make it easy, but every class reinforced how much students needed the program.

"This program has helped me build a sense of patience with other people and myself. I used to have no understanding when trying to express myself, but now I’m better, calmer in doing so." - Robby, GEMS Student, 7th Grade

Now, we are ready to grow. We have expanded into two new schools - Lewis Middle School in Aldine ISD and McReynolds Middle School in Houston ISD. We are increasing the number of classes in our partner schools, allowing us to reach more students. To accomplish that - we have increased our staff and are creating a formal training process for future instructors.

We need you to be a part of our mission and help us support more students in need of GEMS! For more information on ways to get involved, please contact



Your gift allows us to sustain two more schools and additional classes at each
school. With your support we can dramatically increase the number of students
we serve and have an even greater impact on the lives of children of incarcerated

Together, we can continue to improve the lives of some of the most underserved students in our community.

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