SparkOpportunity Winner: Bentrice Jusu

June 13, 2012


A struggling artist from a rough background, college student Bentrice Jusu founded the Both Hands, a nonprofit art program for Trenton, NJ teens that provides mentorship from older kids who successfully avoided the pitfalls of high crime and drop-out rates in their community. She is one of the five winners of the SparkOpportunity Challenge Youth Award.

View Bentrice's entry >>   |    Meet all the winners >>

Here, Bentrice shares more about her project in a Q&A with SparkAction.

What's your idea?  Both Hands is an art-based nonprofit organization that I founded in January of 2011. Both Hands brings on young adults with collegiate experience to provide artistic mediums, a chance for self-expression, skill building, relationship building, and more to inner city and underserved teens in Trenton, New Jersey.

Both Hands is indispensible for teens who need a healthy escape mechanism from the high crime and dropout rate while growing a relationship with mentors who are close to their age, from their city, and on a safer path. The program will show teens and the community of Trenton the transformative power of art and help the city embrace the arts together. I am committed to ensuring the artistic and civil cultivation of my city, and Both Hands will help local teens contribute to that. This is an endeavor I wholeheartedly believe will restore the reputation of the teens by providing positive alternatives for all.

Are you currently a student or working?  I am a rising senior at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I am a Studio Art major with double minors in Film Studies and Women and Gender studies. 

Why did you decide to submit to the Challenge?  I submitted to the SparkAction Challenge because if I didn’t, I was going to take steps backward from where I worked so hard to escape. If I didn’t submit, I was going to disprove everything that I believe and aim to teach to the younger generation of my city. Keep pushing, and when you can’t push anymore, start climbing!

I was actually not going to submit at all—I was dealing with some personal issues that left me feeling sullen and down. I hadn't written anything about my idea. I let the mood of my environment begin to dictate my chance and opportunity, which had happened to me in the past. Then I began to think about the mission of Both Hands—to serve as a realm of possibility and chance through which teens of Trenton can circumvent their issues and become alleviated. So I swallowed the tears, got out the computer, and typed away.

What in your life or background inspired you come up with the idea?  I grew up in an environment where emotions were suffocated, and that brought on internal and external hardships. I was never taught or given the opportunity to express myself to anyone for a very long time, and that hurt more anyone could believe. It was through poetry, my talent in art and the mentorship of my art teacher and Boys & Girls club mentor that saved my life as a teenager.

What will you do with the grant money?  With the grant money I will help to ensure that the second summer of Both Hands Art Institute is effectively executed in order to provide an enlightening, enriching, entertaining, and life-changing experience to about 50 Trenton teens.

Why do you feel it is important to help other youth? Youth are the hope and reason for a better society and tomorrow. If we give up on youth, isn’t that essentially giving up on the future? It is important to be there for youth because teens need direction and guidance to deal with the scores of issues that arise during teenhood. Emotions will stir, peer pressure will heighten, negative substances will come from several places, and they can be confused and maybe  tempted. Without a strong foundation or source to which they can openly turn for advice, unfortunately, many young people fall into negative whirlpools. 

Ultimately, what are you hoping that your idea accomplishes?  I hope Both Hands will raise national awareness and appreciation for mentorship in the arts as well as a national urgency for teen outreach programs. When I was young, I had amazing mentors who listened to me in my dark moments, encouraged me to shine, and pushed me to pursue my artwork. These adults saved my life.

Any fun talents or hobbies you would like to share with us?  I love to recite poetry and write. I love drawing, watching, creating and exploring the process of movies. I love talking and feeling a connection with others through that conversation and practicing the power of word usage. I love dancing, laughing, long boarding, and rapping. Most of all, I am a blessed renaissance artist.


Meet all the SparkOpportunity Challenge winners >>

The SparkOpportunity Challenge was a crowdsourcing competition for young people to share their ideas on how to create local jobs and opportunities for youth.  The Challenge was developed by SparkAction and the Youth Leadership Institute and joined Jon Bon Jovi in support of the White House Council for Community Solutions. Learn more >>