CHICAGO — In an effort to pave the way for more opportunity for those in need, two college student sisters teamed up to create an organization to help other Black female college students succeed.
Janet and Jennifer Martin’s unique collaboration is a one-stop shop, offering scholarships, tips for surviving everyday college life and even beauty tidbits.
Janet is in her first year of medical school at Southern Illinois University and Jennifer is a junior at Cornell University. The two sisters grew up in suburban Chicago with everything they needed, but were very much aware of others in the city who did not have what they had.
Many of their peers lacked access to educational resources and support the sisters say was needed for them to reach their full potential.
“I came to my sister with the idea like, let’s give a scholarship, let’s give a Black woman a scholarship to go to college,” Janet said.
The idea quickly materialized, as Janet took on two jobs, saving money to personally fund a $1,000 college scholarship, and reached out to others for donations.
“We felt like we’ve been blessed, given ample opportunity to succeed and we want everyone to basically be in that position,” Jennifer said.
The two created a website and an application, allowing women to apply while promoting the scholarship online.
The scholarship is named ‘Beauty and Brains’, a non-profit geared toward empowering today’s young African-American women, giving them the tools they need to reach their full potential.
“The mission of beauty and brains is to provide education, resources, scholarships and networking opportunities to young Black women as they go through high school, college, graduate school and onto their professional careers,” Janet said.
The scholarship has grown over the years, allowing the pair to launch ‘The Beauty and Brunch’ scholarship to be awarded at the end of the summer.
Spelman College student Rachel Williams is one of its first scholarship recipients. She said she felt an instant connection to both the organization and the sisters.
“I was so drawn to it just from my background and where I come from and what I see for my future that I had to apply,” Williams said.
To date, ‘Beauty and Brains’ has awarded seven $1,000 scholarships to young women like Rachel. The girls use the tagline, “Confidence breeds beauty. Intellect produces power.”
The organization holds other events as well, including workshops and leadership seminars with businesswomen from the community. Their Instagram account gives tips on how to excel in school and business, while also offering lifestyle advice.
‘They are looking for resources, they are looking for scholarships. But a lot of them are looking for that sisterhood. They’re looking to have that connection with other Black women,” Janet said.
That connection has become like a sisterhood for all in the organization.
“That sisterhood, I would go as far as to say like family, since we’ve grown so close to each other,” Williams said.
The two sisters have also developed a networking application called “Blessed & Balanced“, which should be up and running by the end of 2020.
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