We had the good fortune of connecting with Jenelle Hanes and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jenelle, how do you think about risk?
I feel that risk-taking is also known as being courageous! As I grow into adulthood and as a wife, and mother, I become more comfortable using my courage to fail forward. I acknowledge and value being vulnerable and essentially taking a chance on me. I have also learned that trusting my work will yield the greatest reward, confidence! Risk-taking is really a superpower.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My work began in Raleigh, North Carolina, in my grandmother’s early preschool. It was there; I would become an apprentice and educator in training. I had no idea that just being in that space would develop the passion that I have today. I am in love with the idea that I can influence the educational process and support students’ learning. My first professional job was as a middle school teacher. When I tell people that, someone almost always says, “ooh, you are brave.” And in my head, “I think I guess”…or maybe I did not know any better. I felt it was so easy to be brave for youth but harder to be brave for myself. In middle school, the stakes are high because students can literally see the fork in the road. They get to decide to take the road less traveled or go where everyone else is going. They could decide to be different by being the “nerd” or just be “cool.” Observing this conflict made we want to yell on the morning announcements, “You can be both, just BE THE COOL NERD.” Today, I would add to the PSA, “NERDS LIVE A GOOD LIFE.” Children have so much to gain when they prioritize education. I would argue the same is true today.
I am currently an entrepreneur AND an Operations Manager / Co-Advisor in middle school. If that’s not brave, I don’t know what is. I too, find myself faced with a fork in the road as a career woman and entrepreneur. The phrase fail forward, and Jenelle Hanes is synchronous. But let’s be clear, failing forward for me, means I take a chance and bet on myself every day. I challenge myself to work “9 to 5,” Monday through Friday and then work on my business when I get home. In addition to being a wife, mother, sister, and daughter. My greatest challenge is feeling that something or someone will not get my best. So, I am careful most days to start where I am and leave some things for tomorrow. I don’t believe stress is a requirement or a badge of honor. There will be stress, and I have been stressed, but I understand my health implications if I am stressed too. I must prioritize me or else everything that follows will get less than what’s left. I want to be better than my best! Therefore, I leave my “9 to 5” when I leave at 5; and I do a little each day to grow my business. I have to be intentional about these boundaries so that my children are heard, and my husband and I have time for each other. I want the world to know that I boldly commit to loving what I do, who I am, and not because I had nothing left for myself.
As an entrepreneur, my work is serving children locally and regionally through STEAM activities and specifically with exposure to Agriculture and Technology programs. As a result, my work has become deeply rooted in using education as a pass key. A pass key for equal opportunity to go to college; to create a pipeline for children to engage and to get involved; and finally choose college and careers that will afford them scholarships and not loans. Just B.E., LLC recently created our Ag-Tech program to increase the number of African American students that will consider a college major and professional career in these fields or relative fields of study. Just B.E. understands that AA’s represent less that 2% in farming industries and less than 10% in the Tech industries. This is especially alarming for the farming culture when AA owned, preserved and lead this market for hundreds of years. We better understand that early exposure to these industries could potentially even the playing field for youth in areas considered food desserts and areas lacking resources for curriculum and instruction in technology. Our goal is to boldly influence our youth with our Urban garden. We have started this garden from the ground up in Decatur, GA. We meet twice a month with our partnering organization Future Mountain Movers, Inc. Together we meet as the Thyme 2 Grow Club! We serve youth kindergarten through twelfth grades. We currently have 4 planter boxes built by our high school students and filled by our elementary and middle school students. Collectively, we learn about growing seasonal fruits and veggies. We will continue our learning by understanding how to maintain growth with sustainable models. In the near future we look forward to learning about land conservation. As we continue to grow our garden in phases, we will partner with local and national colleges such as Tuskegee University, Fort Valley State and many more! It’s is important to know that colleges and universities listed are land grant universities. I strongly encourage your readers to learn more about how land grant colleges and universities have significantly impacted the education for both Caucasian and African Americans in higher education. It’s one of the best history lessons I have ever learned! I am super excited that we have volunteers and professors that support my learning and my participants!
It is also important that I share that I am a proud graduate of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University also a land grant university. While I was not an agriculture, engineering or technology major, I recognize it’s never too late to learn! I will courageously learn along side our Camp SENAH and FMM, Inc participants!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If my best friend were visiting, I would take her or him to all of the top black-owned restaurants, clothing, and shopping areas. I would most definitely visit the historic AUC, ride the streetcar, and we would have to see some local talent. I would start with Slim and Husky for a Husky-size pizza (I have to have some for later) and some true-school Hip Hop and R&B as the background music. Then we would have brunch at Le Petit Marche’s one day, and let’s not forget Negril for a mix of Jamaican and American favorites. For entertainment, I would bring it over to East Atlanta for Ten Atl’s music and drinks. And then I would find Gritz and Jelly Butter or some underground artist to enjoy tasty southern comfort food.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Shoutouts to my mentors. Dr. J.D. Selby-Lucas affectionately know as “JD,” and Mrs. Patricia McDowell, or “Mrs. Pat.” They genuinely invest their time to develop young adults and influence small and large businesses. JD is a female African American Engineer, educator, and entrepreneur. She is one of the most intuitive entrepreneurs I know. She challenges me to look beyond what I see and to step it up. “It’s great to start a business, but how will you sustain, manage, and is it profitable?” she would ask. She instinctively meets my vision with thoughts of provision! I love that about her. Ms. Pat is an esteemed educational leader in Early Childhood Education. She is the best example of “when you learn, teach,” as Maya Angelou stated. Her transparency about life experiences reminds me to give my best self in whatever I do even if you make a mistake. She instructed me to keep dreaming, start where you are, and “create your own.” The power behind the Just B.E. LLC or the B.E. (Boldly Educate) in Just, B.E. would not continue to grow without their support. I am eternally grateful and give the largest shoutout possible to these incredible women. Lastly, I want to shoutout Kevin Damon Blackmon, founder of Future Mountain Mover, Inc. Thank you for believing in the mission of Just B.E., LLC to provide programs and services such as Camp SENAH4Life that support youth from kindergarten to college! I am excited about what the future holds for this partnership.