Born and raised in Trenton, New Jersey with a Liberian heritage, Bentrice Jusu’s life has been the perfect convergence of culture, art, service, and entrepreneurship.
ARTIST, STUDENT, SERVICE LEADER
Bentrice graduated in 2013 from Wake Forest University with a Bachelor’s degree in Film Studies and in Studio Arts with Honors Distinction. At Wake Forest, she exemplified her love for the Arts through her academic achievements and was distinguished among her classmates through a number of prestigious accolades. Bentrice received several multi-year merit scholarships, including Peter Brunette Film Studies Merit Scholarship and the Eleanor L. Davis Art Scholarship. She served for two years as the president of Can-I-Poet, a student-run poetry organization, and in 2012, was selected from a competitive pool of applicants to partake in the late Dr. Maya Angelou’s International Poetry course—a paragon of experiences.
Outside of the classroom, Jusu was an active service leader on and off campus in Winston-Salem and in her hometown, during the summers. As a freshman, Bentrice committed to improving educational access for middle school students as both a founding member of Sisters in Service and as a Multicultural Ambassador where she recruited high-achieving students to foster a diverse community on campus while also educating local youth about opportunities at Wake Forest University. That summer, Jusu became a Servant Leader Intern for Children's Defense Fund Freedom School in Trenton—a nation wide initiative that provides high quality academic enrichment and healthy living resources to families and children from lower economical backgrounds. During her sophomore year, she extended her service to the Liberian Organization of the Piedmont, through which she hosted two student leaders from Liberia University. That same year, she interned at the Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem, where she researched and improved the grants of local women-based nonprofit organizations.
Jusu continued her youth outreach in 2011 at the YMCA in Winston-Salem, where she worked as the Assistant Program Director and teen mentor. As a Fellow at the Institute for Public Engagement that summer, she directly supported the Shalom Project by instructing art to predominately Latino children and assisted the Executive Director in maintaining the food and clothing shelter, tending to the medical clinic’s patients, and planning their annual “Big Chill” fundraiser. Because of these services and more unlisted, Jusu earned the distinction of NC ACTs! Fellow through AmeriCorps, for performing over 1000 hours of community service in the course of the 2010-2011 academic year. In 2011, after years of formal leadership experience providing direct services to communities in need and strengthening capacity in the non-profit sector, Bentrice married her love of/commitment to service, art, and education by founding Both Hands the Artlet.
STARTED BOTH HANDS
Both Hands is the only arts-based organization in Trenton that specifically serves teens. More importantly, we welcome all teens as they are and acknowledge the important insights they possess. This philosophy undergirds not only program design but also interactions between youth, mentors, and staff. We reject the assumption that teens are broken people waiting to be mended and filled with knowledge. Instead, relationships are interactive; mentors and youth of all backgrounds learn from one another. To us, this is essential to community development.
Under Jusu’s guidance, creation, and implementation Both Hands has completed three successful pilot programs. Being the sole instructor during the pilot summer program in 2011, Jusu instructed 12 students in four art disciplines for a little over three weeks. In 2012 to expand the summer program more extensively, Jusu recruited volunteer staff to help implement the curriculum. In result, Both Hands grew to serve over 35 students and four student interns in six disciplines over seven weeks. In the fall of 2014 Both Hands collaborated with the Boys & Girls Club to extend their services to include after-school programming. Jusu spent summer 2013 to summer 2014 doing research and development for the afterschool pilot program that was implemented by professionally trained staff and college mentors fall of 2014 to Summer. Most Recently, Jusu established an effectual partnership between The College of New Jersey, and other Stakeholders in pursuits of creating Trenton’s first ever Arts District in the Downtown Area.
RECOGNIZED for INITIATIVES
Since then, Bentrice Jusu has garnered recognition for her efforts with Both Hands. In 2011, Jusu received Wake Forest’s Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award for Most Impactful Social Venture. At the 2012 Annual Martin Luther King Celebration, Jusu was presented with the Building the Dream Award for Outstanding Service and Dedication to the Community. In fall of the same year, through the White House National Youth Council Initiative together with Spark Action Opportunity, Jusu was awarded for Providing Realistic Solutions for Youth to Attain Success. In 2013, Jusu received Wake Forest’s Honorable Schoonmaker Student Prize for Community Service; the Russell D. and Elfriede Hobbs Student Award for Entrepreneurial Achievement in Social Entrepreneurship; and the Richard and Caroline Riley Scholarship in Entrepreneurship. Before graduation, Jusu organized Generation HeART— a benefit concert established by Jusu supporting artistically inclined high school students in Winston-Salem, youth Tap Dancers, and the Young Artists of Both Hands. That same day, she received the Samuel Huntington Public Service Award. Since Both Hands’ induction, Jusu has raised over $50,000 in grants and resources and served over 150 teens in New Jersey.
Bentrice Jusu’s initiatives, art, and performances have been internationally recognized and headlined several publications and editorials. Her art has been featured in galleries in Florence, Italy and accessioned by the esteemed Phillip Hanes Gallery. Most of Jusu’s work is socially/civically charged and includes themes of mimesis, economic disenfranchisement, and hyper feminist tropes. Jusu has lectured to diverse audiences of 500 or more, about topics ranging from “Process of Poetics” to the “Cumulative Ideology”— all of which pertains to her humble beginnings, using the Arts as a formidable tool of circumvention, an artistic performance dynamics.
In addition to her continual initiatives with Both Hands, Jusu has since become a Resident Artist and Teaching Artist in the State of New Jersey, and is the Advanced Community Engaged Leader for The College of New Jersey Trenton Works Network. She has committed to providing high quality Art work, Artistic Programs, and exuberant experiences for the Greater Mercer County Community and Tri-State Area.
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