Posted 11/08/2019 by Boys & Girls Clubs of America in
This post is part of a “Where Are They Now” series highlighting Youth of the Year who have gone on to become leaders, innovators and problem-solvers who now shape our world.
Club alumni like Laura Jenny are using foundational skills they learned at Boys & Girls Clubs to make a difference in their communities and globally. As a Club kid, Laura’s love of academics, the arts and passion for social justice were nurtured through the diverse programming and caring staff at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster in Massachusetts.
Now a junior at Harvard University, the versatile 20-year-old is often found staring down the lens of a microscope in the university’s Naomi Pierce Lab, where she studies the role of pests in crop failure and food shortages. Or you may find her performing theatre- and film-inspired compositions as a violinist with the Harvard Pops Orchestra. Laura also recently visited Australia to study tropical biodiversity.
“My Club gave me opportunities to [practice] science and math and fostered curiosity and a love of learning,” says Laura, an Integrative Biology major with a secondary focus in Global Health and Health Policy. “It [also] gave me a safe space to practice violin and express myself artistically.”
Club mentors inspired Laura to stand up for what she believed in. In high school, she co-founded a program that taught kids how to interact safely with police and reduce tensions between the two groups. In 2016, she was named Massachusetts State Youth of the Year for her leadership and volunteerism in the Boys & Girls Club and service to the community.
“The Club instilled in me the desire to give all I can to others and take initiative,” she says. “A village of people gave me and so many other Club kids their time and care. Because of this, I would like to spend my life giving to others what was given to me.”
Laura continues her social justice work as a Cheng Fellow in Harvard Kennedy School’s New World Social Innovation Fellowship. Through her work, she hopes to provide youth with tools to overcome aftereffects of trauma and affect public policy dealing with juvenile justice and child welfare. She is currently developing a survey to document sources of youth trauma. She plans to use data collected by the survey in collaboration with the nonprofit Strategies for Youth to develop a curriculum to teach youth about trauma and how to respond to triggering situations.
She also serves as Chair of the Community Service Board for Eleganza, Harvard’s largest student-run event with over 50 board members, 60 models and dancers and a sold-out crowd of over 1,500 attendees each year who gather to celebrate fashion, dance, music and expression through the innovative show.
Youth of the Year is Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s premier youth leadership program, honoring extraordinary young people and their achievements in leadership, service, academic excellence and leading a healthy lifestyle. Learn more at BGCA.org/YOY.