HOW IT’S GOING
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.
Johnson College Prep girls pose at the Women's Empowerment Brunch with our CEO, Constance Jones, and other staff.
JCP girls pose and smile at their brunch table.
Constance Jones (middle) poses with two Johnson students at the brunch photobooth.
Johnson College Prep staff & students stand in the brunch buffet line.
Girls and staff spread out across the tables in the South Shore Cultural Center's Oak Room.
Joy Thomas, a student success coach at Johnson College Prep, smiles and poses at her table.
Johnson College Prep girls throw peace signs as they pose at their brunch table.
A Johnson advisory group poses at their table.
Johnson girls take a selfie just outside the Oak Room.
Girls dance and pose for photos along with staff at the Women's Empowerment Brunch.
Johnson girls gather in a circle to dance to the DJ's music.
Chivon Ford, assistant principal at JCP, addresses the crowd at the brunch.
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.
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.