MILWAUKEE — In 2019, Jasmine Johnikin made a commitment to save lives when she graduated from nursing school. The 28-year-old works full-time as a nurse at Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, but said she felt like she needed to do more.
"I felt like I was fulfilling my purpose of becoming a nurse but something else felt like it was missing," said Johnikin.
It was during the pandemic that Johnikin realized she had a passion for mentoring the youth. After sharing her vision with family and friends, she launched As I Am Mentoring Inc. in June 2022. It's a mentorship program designed to help kids realize their purpose in life and give them a voice
"They are dealing with things and they are battling so many different issues," said Johnikin. "Our goal is just to help strengthen them and help push them in the right direction."
"It's amazing to see them grow in each session. It makes me happy," said Sarah Smith, another mentor with the program.
The co-ed program is currently offered to any and all high schoolers free of charge. Everything needed to run As I Am is paid for by Johnikin herself.
"It's my passion, it's my purpose, and I'm going to do whatever I have to do to make sure it flourishes," she said.
14-year-old Jazziah Watson was one of the first teens to sign up for the program. She, along with 11 other teens, meets once a month with mentors on Saturdays at Cardinal Stritch University to discuss challenges they face on a day-to-day basis.
"It's kind of like a stereotype put against teens especially African-American teens so I definitely feel like I can come here and I can express how I feel and I can somewhat beat the stereotype," said Watson. "We are an intelligent group of people."
And by providing the program, Johnikin hopes that she'll be able to save even more lives.
"I'm grateful for the opportunity to be that vessel, to be used and interact and to make a change in our youth's lives," Johnikin said.
This article was written by Taylor Lumpkin for WTMJ.