BY QUINN BORGSTROM
The young girls file into the classroom one by one, many announcing their arrival with a high-pitched “Hi, Ms. Joy.” As they gather around the table, Joy McBrien starts handing out an assortment of strings, beads, and colorful faux jewels to the girls.
It’s art club at the all-girls Laura Jeffrey Academy in St. Paul, and the students eagerly craft their jewelry under the watchful eye of McBrien, an AmeriCorps promise fellow at the school and a 2011 Carlson School graduate.
As for the jewelry the students make, some they’ll keep, while some McBrien will sell and send the proceeds to a battered women’s shelter in Chimbote, Peru.
“Peru has the highest domestic violence rate in the world, 70 percent. I went there after my freshman year at Carlson, and I decided I wanted to build a battered women’s shelter and learn nonprofit management, so that’s what I did,” says McBrien, who graduated with a nonprofit management and entrepreneurial management major and a design minor.
That was her first visit, and during her time back in the states, McBrien, who had been making jewelry since the age of 16, got to thinking. “I thought, I have more than enough, why not start selling jewelry for people who need it? It could pay for someone’s water.”
On her second visit to Chimbote in 2010, McBrien brought her jewelry funds to help support the women’s shelter. During her three-month stay, she organized a domestic violence support group, taught English, and started an artisan group for the women to learn a trade and converse with each other. Now most of the money from McBrien’s jewelry sales goes toward the domestic violence group.
McBrien planned to head to graduate school after graduating from the Carlson School as well as join the Peace Corps, which would have required her to be overseas for two years. “At the time I was coming up with a business plan for my fair trade clothing company, and I was told by a professor that I just had to pursue my business,” McBrien says. “To do so, I just couldn’t be out of the country for two years with the Peace Corps.”
With her clothing company a work-in-progress, McBrien joined AmeriCorps, which is how she came to be an AmeriCorps promise fellow at the Laura Jeffrey Academy in August 2011.
Now energized by her experience at the academy, McBrien is hoping to live in Chimbote next year to study girls’ education and start a fair trade clothing company from the ground up.
“I’m trying to tie them all in a nice, neat bow,” she says of all her interests.