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Turning the vision of the Gloria Pointer Teen Movement Intervention Learning Center into reality by Shelley M. Shockley Managing Editor A winter storm was engulfing the eastern half of the United States, flights were cancelled and Yvonne Pointer's dream seemed to be on hold last February. The Cleveland evangelist, activist and mother was packed and ready to head to Elmina, Ghana to fulfill the dream of continuing her daughter's legacy in this faraway land, yet her faith, conviction and prayers once again had the upper hand. She boarded the plane a few days late and despite several delays broke ground on the Gloria Pointer Teen Movement Center in Antonkwa, a village in Elmina. Pointer's story embodies the cliché “triumph over tragedy”, because she has experienced one of life's greatest tragedies – the loss of a child to violence but her profound faith in God and man has led her on a spirit-filled journey to empower others. As the spring thaw settled into Cleveland, Yvonne opened the doors of her home to share her story with Phenomenal Woman. The deep rich wood highlighted with deep shades of red added warmth to the conversation. The story began twenty-nine years ago when Pointer's fourteen-year-old daughter was abducted and murdered, but we begin eleven years ago when the story of her death reaches a young man more than 5,000 miles away in Ghana, West Africa. Anthony Tay, 17, was walking in Ghana feeling overwhelmed by the many setbacks he was experiencing when he noticed a paper on the ground and bent to pick it up. The paper was an article recounting the inspirational story of Yvonne Pointer and how she struggled daily to come to grips with the murder of her eldest daughter. Moved by the story, Tay reached out to Pointer expressing his sorrow for the loss of her daughter and telling of his desire to further his education and one day become a doctor. Without financial support and educational facilities, that dream appeared bleak.

Anthony Tay and Yvonne Pointer

That chance encounter led Pointer and her network of friends to begin sending money to Tay and other children to assist with their educational endeavors. Tay in turn began “paying it forward” when he founded the Gloria Pointer Teen Movement Initiative in West Africa and began traveling to neighboring villages to urge African youth to get an education and begin living healthy lifestyles in honor of Gloria. These series of events epitomizes Pointer's belief, “thoughts become things,” something she was becoming familiar with. One of her earliest thoughts to preserve Gloria's memory was the establishment of a scholarship for young girls graduating from Cleveland's John Hay High School, the school Gloria was anxious to attend. In 1991 as she struggled with how she was going to make this vision a reality, Pointer recalls receiving an unexpected check for $4,000. “I was surprised, and thought this can't be for me, but that was the start of the Gloria Pointer Scholarship Fund.” That first $4,000 would not create a perpetual endowment, in order to do that Pointer had to raise another $30,000 and as she is quick to point out, “I don't have any money,” but she held onto the vision and found ways to raise the money. From the sale of her books “Behind the Death of a Child,” “Word from the Mother,” “Two Dollar$ in My Pocket,” and speaking engagements, she was able to ensure the scholarship was vested in 2011. She explains, “That's twenty years of the same thoughts and that's the God's honest truth.” That same level of perseverance along with an infectious personality has led and propelled her work both in the U.S. and Ghana. In 2006, Pointer was the grand prize recipient of the Curvation® Project Confidence Award for founding Cleveland's “Positive Plus,” a women's self-help group whose mission is to motivate women to become responsible and seize control of this own destiny; for being a role model for the Cleveland Public Schools “Girl Power” program; and for her work building the confidence and self-respect of inmates in women's and juvenile prisons. The award came with a $10,000 grant to continue the work she was doing with “Positive Plus' and other groups and helped to make her first trip to Ghana a reality in 2007. That trip was an eye opener for Pointer. As she sits in the comforts of her home, she spreads her arms to encompass her well appointed home and says, “Me and my prissy self I was overcome by no electricity, no running water and mud huts brought me to tears and I cried the entire time I was there.” In summary she says hearing about the living conditions is one thing but to see it with your own eyes is another thing.

GROUND BREAKING (Ghana, West Africa) (L to R) George Fraser, Yvonne Pointer and Anthony Tay

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