Founder and CEO Gabrielle B. Johnson’s story begins just like any other; she grew up in Geismar, graduated from East Ascension High School, and received both a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and a master’s degree in public relations at Southern University. Despite her academic achievements, she believes that nothing has been more rewarding than being a mother to her two daughters, Jazmine and Joy, who motivate her every day. She also credits her success to her late aunt Madeline Briley-Jackson whom she says “always saw greatness in me, even when I didn’t see it myself.”
Johnson always knew she had a calling to help others, but she wasn’t sure of how that calling would be until 2006. That latent calling within her finally manifested when a close friend of hers was diagnosed with a major health issue.
“Initially, she was afraid to disclose her status to me. But, when she did, I could see the relief she felt when she realized that she could open up to me without judgment,” shares Johnson. “At that moment, I knew I had to do something.”
In September of that year, she took the leap and founded the Face to Face Enrichment Center, which then only offered health outreach services but quickly expanded into offering mentoring and support services for underprivileged and disadvantaged youth and families. Today, the center’s mission is to “provide educational, outreach, and mentoring services to underserved and disadvantaged youth and families throughout the Greater Baton Rouge, Greater Hammond, and the Greater New Orleans areas.”
In order to better serve communities, their signature program, The COPE Project (Community, Organizations, and Programs that Empower) works to match youth ages 10-18 with adult role models to guide them. Each Center location provides different services with the Hammond location providing assessments, counseling, juvenile justice life skills training, and academic support through the youth diversion program Aim High. In Baton Rouge, a resource lab gives clients a safe place to do homework or research health information.
Beyond its programming, Face to Face works hard to serve local communities through various outreach programs including its annual back-to-school supply giveaway, a Thanksgiving food basket distribution event, and its Adopt-A-Youth Christmas initiative.
On July 22, they are hosting their first Annual Youth and Family Empowerment Summit at the Goodwood Library from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The summit is free and open to the public, meant to provide youth and families with an educational event featuring breakout sessions, interactive activities, a keynote speaker, and a panel discussion.
Johnson notes that the event will allow youth to “engage in topics such as how social media creates unrealistic perceptions, the importance of self-love, and seeing value in who they are. Youth will also learn ways to cope with anxiety, anger, and depression.”
Additionally, attending parents will be able to build their confidence with advice on how to approach difficult conversations with their children about historically awkward topics like identity, puberty, and so on. For the nervous or frustrated parent, lessons on coping mechanisms to use when feeling defeated as a parent will also be provided.
Another event to look forward to is their main fundraising event to take place on December 15, the Rock Your Red Gala 2023. The gala is a formal event where the organization recognizes the hard work of their mentors, mentees, and supporting parents. The event is an exciting opportunity for most mentees, as Face to Face ensures that all their youth have formal attire to wear, allowing them to look their best and feel extra special when receiving their awards.
“During the event, mentors and mentees get to share testimonials about their experiences in the program. Their stories are truly touching, and there is rarely a dry eye in the room when they express how the program has impacted their lives,” attests Johnson.
If you would like to learn more about Face to Face Enrichment Center, register for any of their events, or simply get involved in their programs, visit their website at FaceToFaceCenter.org, follow them on Facebook or Instagram, or give any of their offices a call.