Johnson College Prep Launches Speaker Series for Girls & Women

In this graphic, there is an image in the background that shows a bunch of Johnson College Prep girls and staff posing at the Women's Empowerment Brunch with Noble Schools' CEO Constance Jones in the center. There are big bay windows behind the group and a photobooth set up with a green grass backdrop and pink balloons. On top of the photo, there is a transparent dark blue layer. On top of that and in the bottom left corner, there is blue text on a yellow box that reads "Johnson College Prep Launches Speaker Series for Girls & Women". In the bottom right corner is the Noble Schools logo.
Published On: August 3rd, 2023Categories: 2023, Constance Jones, Johnson College Prep, Staff, Students, Women's History Month

“What I need you to trust and know is that it is a process, and you, too, can get to the other side. Because, actually, you’re not becoming a diamond – you always was one.”

Jennifer Reid Davis, the Head of Strategy & Equity at Noble Schools, left the girls of Johnson College Prep with this advice as she took to the stage as the first speaker of Johnson’s new Diamond Speaker Series.

The program, created to help encourage and empower girls at JCP, started at the beginning of this past semester. Throughout the past few months, JCP brought in all kinds of amazing women to speak about their journey, from entrepreneurs to nonprofit leaders.

Keep reading to learn more about the Diamond Speaker Series and its impact.


The Diamond Speaker Series started as an idea in the back of Principal Jonas Cleaves’ mind in the fall of 2021, when all Noble schools first came back from online learning. The idea for the series was rooted in what he had seen from young female students as a school leader in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Memphis.

“Young ladies were hurting from various forms of trauma that often manifested in ways many would consider disrespectful when it was actually a cry for help,” Cleaves said.

When thinking about ways he and his leadership team at JCP could help, he came up with the idea for the Diamond Speaker Series – to have amazing women at various stages of their lives come and talk with JCP girls.

“Many of our students mimic the outcomes of their favorite celebrity, mentor, or anyone they hold in high regard. It shows up in hairstyles, how they dress, talk, etc.,” Cleaves said, “This is normal but I want our ladies to hear the stories of women who are brave enough to share the process that helped shape who they are today.”

Image shows Jennifer Reid Davis, Noble Schools' Head of Strategy and Equity, speaking in front of female students at Johnson College Prep in Chicago, Illinois. Jennifer is sitting down and holding a mic in her hand. Her face is animated and looks like she is in the middle of telling a great story. In the foreground of the image is the blurred out heads and shoulders of the audience, framing Jennifer in the center of the photo.

Jennifer Reid Davis spoke deeply and powerfully to her experience as a young Black woman and leader.

He hoped that the stories of other women would give JCP girls the courage to give themselves “grace” and “keep climbing.”

“The world will give them plenty of reasons to question their brilliance and give up. They need to know that life’s hurdles or mistakes do not have to define them for the rest of their lives,” Cleaves said.

While it took a while to get the program running, after testing it with a pilot group in 2022 and getting the logistics together to release it to the whole school this year, Cleaves and his leadership team’s work definitely paid off.

Enjoying this article?

Let us know so we can make sure to write more like it!

Photo shows two students at UIC College Prep in Chicago, Illinois standing in the hallway of the school building. The student on the left is a young Black man with medium-length locs. He is wearing a light grey sweatshirt with the dark blue UIC College Prep logo on it. The student on the right is a young Black girl. She has long black and blue braids. She is wearing the same light grey sweatshirt and holding a binder, a folder, and a laptop with one arm. They are leaning into each other and smiling at the camera.


The series started out with a bang as Jennifer Reid Davis laid bare her life story.

“When you think about a diamond, it’s in the rough. It’s literally from the earth. You have to dig it up, you have to find it. And so, what Jennifer is gonna do right now is tell us about her ‘in-the rough’, her upbringing, where she’s from. We’re gonna take a journey with her,” Chivon Ford, Johnson’s Assistant Principal, said before handing the mic to Davis.

Davis was more than ready to pick the mic up and use it – she talked about her childhood, her college experience, her relationships, and more.

“The things that you see today are not the beginning, y’all. As I thought about the things that I wanted to share about the beginning and the things that make me who I am today, it’s humbling because it isn’t the thing that you wanna sit in,” Davis shared.

Davis told Johnson girls what she learned from all of her life experiences.

“A lesson that I learned through the pressures of becoming a diamond is that my life is a performance… and I get to decide who’s VIP, who’s general admission, and who’s standing room only,” Davis said.

Even a month after Davis’ speech, Cleaves said he could still feel its resonance.

“Our girls displayed waves of emotions as Jennifer candidly shared the peaks and valleys of her own life,” Cleaves said, “I was expecting a quick conversation followed by a Q/A session, but instead, our ladies had an experience that is still felt in our building a month later.”

Mariah, a rising senior at JCP, connected a lot with Davis’ speech. She recalled that she was in a bad mood before she went to the event but felt a bit better after hearing Davis speak.

“It felt good knowing some of the stuff that we go through, she’s been through it. She’s been in our shoes,” Mariah said, “It made me feel like it’s gonna be okay – like, you’re gonna hit trials, you’re gonna mess up sometimes, you’re gonna make mistakes. But, in the end, you’re gonna be okay.”

The speech also resonated with Miranda, a recently graduated senior, and Yolanda, a rising senior.

“When she started talking, I was just sitting up in my chair, like ‘Dang, she really talking that stuff right now.’ When she was honest about her life and all of that, it really hit home for me,” Miranda said.

“It really helped everybody understand how you can build yourself and how you can overcome anything in your life,” Yolanda said.

After Davis kicked off the series, Johnson followed it up with monthly events all spring semester. One of the other highlights was the Women’s Empowerment Brunch they held at the South Shore Cultural Center to celebrate Women’s History Month. The event was full of laughing, talking, and dancing.

Our CEO, Constance Jones, started the brunch with a short speech.

“You all look amazing. The energy is so strong and positive. It is certainly filling my cup,” Jones started, “I don’t take opportunities like this for granted to be able to impart a little bit about what I’ve learned in my journey as a proud Black woman.”

Jones then continued to talk through her experience growing up in North Carolina, her struggles in school, and then ultimately graduating from Harvard University. She ended with an important message for all Johnson girls.

“Please, no matter what you’ve been through, no matter what your GPA might be right now, no matter what you might feel like, on the surface, you’re lacking, I want you to know that you can truly do anything,” Jones send.

For the rest of the time in the beautiful South Shore Oak Room, girls were chatting and getting to know each other.

“I really enjoyed the brunch. I liked that everyone was having fun,” Karleeya, another rising senior at JCP, said, “I saw that there were groups that were getting to know other kids that they didn’t know before.”

In addition to the time to build community, the girls at the brunch also got to hear from IB Majekodunmi, a successful entrepreneur and the founder of Refine Collective, an online community that helps support minority-owned businesses and freelancers.

Photo shows IB Majekodunmi, a successful entrepreneur and the founder of Refine Collective, sitting in a chair and holding a microphone, addressing the crowd at the Johnson College Prep Women's Empowerment Brunch. She is a young Black woman with long black braids and wearing a fuzzy black bucket hat, a black leather jacket over the beige JCP Women's Empowerment Brunch graphic tee, loose black dress pants, and black, red, and white Nike Air sneakers. She is talking with her hands and her mouth and eyes are open wide as she speaks. She is surrounded in the background and foreground of the image by the audience.

IB (center) talks about her life and success as an entrepreneur at the Women's Empowerment Brunch.

She talked about her experience as a child of Nigerian immigrants and how she navigated school and college to get to where she is. When asked whether should she would have chosen college again, she didn’t hesitate.

“Hands down, I would 100% go to college, not just for what you learn in the class, but it’s the relationships that honestly will change your life,” Majekodunmi said, “I wouldn’t have been able to even pursue entrepreneurship if I didn’t get the job that I did straight out of college, and I wouldn’t have been qualified for that type of job without doing the internship I did and getting the degree that I did. But also, even till this day, there are people that I met in college that have been so supportive to me in my entrepreneurial journey.”

Johnson girls really leaned into her story and asked all kinds of questions at the end, like how Majekodunmi was able to handle her anxiety in the work she does and what is her “why” for moving through life.

At the end of the event, JCP staff handed out flowers to every student, telling them they deserve to “get their flowers” – a powerful metaphor for reminding each and every girl how much they are loved, valued, and respected.

“You all are people that matter, even if the world can’t always see that,” said Chivon Ford, the Assistant Principal of Johnson College Prep and emcee for the event.


As for the future of the Diamond Speaker Series, Principal Cleaves left it open-ended.

“DDS will continue to be whatever our young ladies want and need it to be, and I, along with other men on staff, will continue to support,” Cleaves said.

Thus far, it seems like those young ladies still want to see it continue.

“I hope we continue events like these cause these are always my favorite – like, having someone face-to-face talking to me,” Mariah said.

“They’re really helpful – learning about what we should do or not to do. It’s a stepping stone that could possibly help a lot of us in the future,” Karleeya said.

“I really liked this event. I feel like we should have more in the future, and I feel like, next time when we have one of these, we should really dive deeper into what being a female is about,” Yolanda said.

Read more about what’s happening on our campuses…

We want to write the stories you want to read.

Take our short survey to let us know what you want to see on the Noble blog:

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

We want to write the stories you want to read.

Take our short survey to let us know what you want to see on the Noble blog:

Follow us on social media for more updates about what’s happening on our campuses:

For information about enrolling at a Noble School or employment opportunities please, click below.

The image is a photo of Jasmine at prom. She is wearing a long, black sparkly dress. She has her hair to her left side of her face. She is sitting on a bench where the prom is located. The image has a navy blue overlay over it. On the bottom left side, the title states "The Part of Me They Don't See" surrounded by yellow bordering. Below it, there is a white ribbon that says "By Jasmine Carmona | Bulls Prep Alum, Class of 2023." On the bottom right side of the image, the Noble schools logo is present.The Part of Me They Don't See
This graphic has a photo in the background of a group of Noble Schools' staff members smiling and posing for a photo. They are all wearing matching dark blue shirts that have the Noble logo on them and read "One Noble, One Vision: Excellence, Equity, and College Readiness". On top of the image is a dark blue transparent layer. On top of that and in the bottom left corner is blue text on a yellow box that reads "Noble Educators Celebrate the New School Year". The Noble Schools logo is in the bottom right corner.Noble Schools' Educators Celebrate the Start of the New School Year

Ensuring Positive and Equitable School Experiences for Noble Students Across Chicago

Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter!

Go to Top