Bentrice Jusu: Renaissance Woman

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Bentrice Jusu is an old soul. Don’t let her shaved head, ripped jeans, or vintage chucks (of the decidedly non-Greek kind) dissuade you. She listens with a quiet stillness that grants her a maturity beyond her years—and then she laughs. A real kid’s laugh, a raspy laugh, a belly laugh. She casts her spell and then she breaks it, reeling you in. Bentrice, a senior art major and renaissance woman from Trenton, New Jersey, kindly showed me her world one morning in late October.

Bentrice opened up to me about the non-profit she founded two summers ago, called Both Hands Artlet.  The organization mentors at-risk local teenagers through the arts.

“Both Hands is my way of giving [back to]… the mentorship that saved my life in high school,” she reflects.

One mentor, an employee at the Trenton Boys and Girls Club, was especially noteworthy.

“I didn’t want to go home because of [domestic] issues,” said Jusu. I got engaged in extra-curricular activities to cover up what was really going on inside. Evonne Williams saw right through that…[I could] really become the best person I could be without any judgment.”

The mentorship spurred the idea for a program of her own.

“There are no centers directly focused on the arts or teens [in Trenton],” Jusu explained. “This attributes to high crime, high pregnancy rates, and other daunting factors in Trenton. It is my belief that if we give these teens something to look forward to, something to create, that will change.”

She piloted the program during the summer of 2011 through the Boys and Girls Club of Trenton, New Jersey, but independently directs the program out of a local high school, currently. This summer, the program ran for seven weeks using Jusu’s curriculum, six volunteer instructors and five student interns who mentored 31 teenagers.