Today we’re celebrating a leader who is making others better as a result of her presence and making that impact last in her absence.
Meet Ja’Nay Jenkins
What is your role? And how do you currently work with girls?
Superwoman. That’s it, that’s my role; well, I have five. I am the Office Manager and Executive Assistant to both the CEO and CFO at Fivestars, a marketing platform that allows you to create a rewards program for your business. Currently and most impactfully, I also serve as a Shelter Monitor for Abode Services’ Operation Safer Ground, a hotel housing program created to prevent the spread of Covid-19 by housing our most vulnerable community and providing them the space to self-isolate and feel protected. This shelter is located at the Radisson Hotel. Although there are many men who reside in the shelter, I make it a point to pay special attention to the girls and women, for they are our first teachers: They are responsible for the shaping of a generation. Lastly, I am a full-time single mother of three.
What social-emotional learning skill have you found yourself using a lot recently for yourself and for the girls?
I’ve found myself focusing on storytelling and community building. When someone shares their personal story with you, they trust you. You also learn of their strengths, dreams, hopes, and aspirations. This creates a healing environment. As the empathetic active listener, I am now looking for opportunities and people to align them with. This is how I start the foundation of building community. I birthed a bi-weekly event called “Self-Care Sunday”, which provides residents with spiritual guidance, an opportunity to network and showcase their skills with other residents, and access to essential resources. It is through the “Love Your Neighbor” program from Fivestars and in-kind donations received from Abode staff, family, and friends that we are able to keep “Self-Care Sunday” running. Imagine that. You see, I was able to marry the two companies that I now work for. Yet if it were not for my relationship with Girls Leadership, this wouldn’t have happened. It was Girls Leadership that led me to Abode Services’ Operation Safer Ground. Yes, do you see this?! This is how we build community on a larger scale.
What was your biggest takeaway from Power ColLABorative that impacted your work with girls?
Wow, I took away so much and carry it with me daily. The biggest takeaway was learning how to create “community contracts”—laying a foundation of boundaries and ground rules before starting a conversation, project, or relationship. It is important to know what people’s trauma has been, their triggers, experiences, and background. This will address any blind spots that I might have. It increased my awareness about how I appear to others and also what is needed from me. I use it at home with my children and learned what they needed from me based on who they are as individuals. A community contract helps set the tone for each interaction. Sometimes it is done on paper and other times it is done during conversation. My biggest takeaway from Girls Leadership was learning to assert myself, showing up as my authentic self with my strong personality and opinion because it is welcomed, and to take up all the space, without apology. That is now my superpower.
Who has helped you step into the power of your voice?
Knowledge of self. I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit. I’ve had to first help myself. I am still a student and I’ve not arrived yet but life lessons and experiences taught me that I’ve had the power all along. The staff at Girls Leadership amplified this. I was the Operations and Technology Manager so I knew firsthand what materials were being printed, what new programs were on the horizon, and the extensive thought and planning that went into the curriculum. The curriculum is now embedded in me. I take it with me everywhere I go. I am a strong pillar in my community and oftentimes the strongest pillar needs support. At GL, I didn’t have to be the strong pillar—I could just simply show up. Girls Leadership is full of pillars. I would love to name them all but I literally saw a piece of my reflection in everyone. My parents have also played an integral role in helping me step into the power of my voice. My children—they also hold me accountable; they’re so used to me using the power of my voice these days that they’ll nudge me if they suspect in the slightest that I may be shrinking.
What would you want other parents or teachers to know right now?
We live in a time where preparation is key. Especially in today’s climate where the biggest pandemic we’re suffering from is racism/classism. Being in the peak of COVID-19, we as a country are forced to stop and look at this still shot. We all need tools and resources. I didn’t think that I needed tools but now I realize this has been essential to my growth. Tools aren’t just a hammer and screwdriver—utilizing tools can be learning another way to say “I love you.” It can also mean learning to listen for what people don’t say. It’s time to unpack and unlearn what we were previously taught. Children are plants: We should be continually asking ourselves, “What am I pouring into you? Is it helping you grow? Is the environment that I am placing you in conducive to your growth? Am I paying attention to the other plants that I have growing next to you? Are they, in fact, helping you to grow?” I am so grateful for being placed in the garden that is Girls Leadership. This program is essential to my growth.