The Gem Academy Team

Jim Hershey

Founder / Executive Director

For the last 15 years Jim has specialized exclusively in therapeutic work with teens and young adults that struggle with obesity, with an emphasis on immersion programs, long term treatment and aftercare. He has amassed over 8000 hours of direct client work in this specialty putting Jim in a small, exclusive group of clinicians in the world. As a member of the Obesity Action Coalition Jim is a constant advocate and educator regarding the causes of obesity and effective interventions.

His work in this field began in 2007. This was after 4 years as a clinician working with college athletes in the field of sport psychology.  Jim moved from Phoenix Arizona to Fresno California to take a position at the world’s first boarding school for overweight teens. During his tenure he held the roles of therapist, clinical consultant, and program director and clinical director.

Among his peers he was known for his tireless determination and commitment to the kids and their families. Mark Twain once said, “the two most important days in a person’s life are the day they were born,  and the day they find out why.”

Shorty after Jim began his career at the boarding school his “why” was realized. “There was a level of bravery, sacrifice and hope that I would see every day in the kids.  It made you want to be the absolute best you could be for them. With everything they were bringing to the fight, they deserved every bit of that”

Jim’s dedication to the students and their families allowed him to build long standing relationships. Through Jim’s investment and continued involvement with his students and families, Jim recognized the need for a far more comprehensive support structure for recently transitioned students. This became the catalyst for Gem Academy as a long term solution for adolescent obesity.

Gem was born over a decade+ long process of evaluation of prior experience, refined practice, the latest health research and new research into areas of achievement, performance, habit formation and character. But the most critical influence into building Gem has been the shared personal experiences of hundreds of students over the last 14 years. Sharing their successes and challenges has created a better understanding of what is critically needed to support these students for the long run.

Through his professional and educational pursuits Jim has had diverse and eclectic experiences as a tradesman, working musician, on-air radio personality, and collegiate athlete and captain.

Jim is a Wisconsin native but has been a resident of the Phoenix area for 16 of the last 20 years. He and his wife have a seven year old little boy and a four year old little girl.


Emberlie Pieters, DC B.S.

Program Director


As a dedicated and passionate advocate for health and well-being, Emberlie aims to inspire positive change, as well as foster strength and confidence in the community of adolescent girls that she serves as Program Coordinator for Gem Academy.

Emberlie’s journey in the field of healthcare began with a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology, coupled with a minor in Dance, from San Jose State University. Her academic foundation in Kinesiology provided her with a deep understanding of human movement and physiology, while her love for dance ignited a lifelong passion for the arts and physical expression.

Building upon this foundation, Emberlie pursued her Doctorate of Chiropractic from Palmer College of Chiropractic West in San Jose, California. This educational pursuit allowed her to combine her knowledge of the body’s complex systems with a holistic approach to health and wellness, aligning perfectly with her mission to help young girls struggling with obesity.

In her free time, she finds joy in performing as a dance artist which infuses creativity and expression into her existence. Beyond dance, Emberlie is an ardent musician, finding solace and inspiration in the world of melodies and rhythms. Her personal practice of yoga and meditation serves as a powerful tool for balance and self-awareness which has helped her overcome her own health challenges with a positive mindset.

Emberlie is also an avid student of the indigenous traditions of the Americas, recognizing the wisdom they hold in harmony with nature and their potential to heal the restless minds of modern-day life. Her exploration into natural crafting methods, rooted in ancient traditions that connect humanity back to nature, highlights her commitment to holistic well-being beyond the physical form.

Sammie Mueller, B.A.

Classroom Coordinator


coming soon