Building compassion and empathy among America’s youth to end sexual abuse, harassment, and bullying
THE JENSEN PROJECT is committed to curbing harassment, bullying and sexual abuse among young people by encouraging empathy and compassion in children at an early age through an open dialogue with parents, teachers, college students and children in lower schools.
Empathy, empowerment and education have been the cornerstones of Janet Jensen’s life mission.
Janet grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where she graduated from Coe College. Her father was an accomplished entrepreneur and taught Janet the value of pursuing an education and a vision—two traits which would influence her entire life’s work.
After graduation in 1979, Janet went to work for the Raytheon Company and held several positions as she advanced up the corporate ladder. Following her tenure at Ratheon, she joined United Group Agency in Dallas. It was during this period when her life would take a dramatic turn.
One afternoon while jogging, Janet was sexually assaulted. The trauma of the experience combined with the insensitivity of the authorities and hospital personnel was an experience she has never forgotten. It was 1982, and rape was seldom discussed—even by women. Many of the people she encountered had little or no understanding of what she had experienced and, as a result, no idea how to support her.
The concept of empathy and compassion became her mission.
From adversity came progress
This tragic personal experience led Janet to establish Human Investments, a foundation whose mission was to help survivors of sexual assault find the assistance and counseling they needed. In spite of the cultural taboo surrounding the topic of sexual assault, Janet pursued her cause and traveled around the country speaking openly of her experience, to educate the public and raise funds to further the foundation’s work.
She developed one of the first volunteer programs at a private hospital to assist victims of sexual assault and assisted in the production of the first television documentary about sexual assault.
“These experiences made me who I am today,” she says, “and have made me more aware of the importance of treating all people with empathy and compassion.”
In 1993, she founded BestConnections, which provided marketing expertise and sales for Matrix Telecom, a company in 1995 that was ranked the seventh fastest growing company in America by Inc. magazine.
A passionate supporter of education, Janet was the founder of the B.E.L.I.E.F. Scholarships (Believing in Education, Leadership, Inspiration, Empowerment and Family), which for nearly 20 years provided more than 300 renewable scholarships, totaling $5+ million, to assist low-income high school seniors and college students in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
“From early on, my parents raised me to understand the importance of having an education,” says Janet, “and then—most importantly—to give back to others so they might also move ahead in life.”
Most of the scholarship recipients were the first generation in their families to attend college. Among the criteria the awarding committee considered were not only financial need, extra-curricular activities and grades, but also the desire to help others and a commitment to the community.
The B.E.L.I.E.F. scholarship recipients went on to graduate from such prestigious universities as Texas A&M, North Texas University, Baylor University, Southern Methodist University, Johns Hopkins and the University of Notre Dame, among others.
The Jensen Project
Most recently, Janet launched The Jensen Project, a social awareness initiative committed to supplying young children and students with the tools and resources they need to lead a lifestyle in which they demonstrate compassion and empathy towards others.
In 2016, as part of this initiative she started the Stand Up, Speak Up video contest, which she sponsored at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. It is designed to raise awareness about instances of, and issues related to, sexual misconduct on college campuses. She also developed with UNH a series of interactive student roundtables and participated on campus as a panelist and guest speaker at campus events related to awareness and prevention of sexual abuse.
Jensen, who has served on the boards of many philanthropic and nonprofit organizations, also owns J. Jarie Gallery, which creates inspirational greeting cards and stationery.