By Meryl Willett, Storyteller
Junia Janvier ’19 has a soft voice, she’s polite and punctual, but after spending a little bit of time with her, you realize that beneath her calm demeanor is a powerhouse for change, equity, and inclusion.
For her Wheeler Senior Project, she founded a program supporting and empowering young girls from Providence’s Sophia Academy to help them transition from middle school into high school. She calls it: My Sisters’ Keeper. “I envisioned a week-long program to help girls unleash their identity,” says Junia, “to help build confidence and self-esteem so they can enter high school feeling confident about what makes them who they are,” she says. “I’m the only Sophia alumna I know who went through all four years at Wheeler, and that was a challenge for me. It took most of my freshman and sophomore year to feel comfortable. I see My Sister’s Keeper as an opportunity to support other girls as they enter into high school through the lens of self-love and self-care.”
Post-Wheeler graduation, it became clear to Junia that the scope of work needed to launch a week-long workshop for ten girls was beyond what could be accomplished on limited funds and time. Instead of discarding her idea she leveraged grant resources available through Boston University, where she began as a member of the freshman class in September 2019. Junia, who plans to study Computer Science, was accepted into the First Year Innovation Fellowship (FYIF) 2019-2020 program, and given a $500 seed grant to turn her idea into action.
In July, My Sister’s Keeper launched as a day-long program welcoming six participants. “The night prior, I mixed different hair oils and butters as gifts, created flyers, and fine-tuned the agenda. That morning I decorated the Sophia Academy cafeteria and set up all my supplies, and then the girls arrived!” she explains. “As an icebreaker, we used arts and crafts and poetry to create an introductory tagline and then on a red carpet, participants shared about who they are and told more about themselves.” The rest of the day included presentations about navigating studies, self-care, relationships; followed by discussions about how identity and values play an essential role in navigating the social constructs of a school and beyond.
Junia’s passion for social justice began as a student at Sophia, a private, non-profit school in Providence, RI for girls from low-income families in grades 5 – 8. That passion for justice continued to grow throughout her four-year career at Wheeler, “Through social justice, we can change the world. I want to be accountable for what I do,” she says.