Janice Yvette Nichols Harper was the only daughter born to the late Dr. Rufus Augustus and Janet Clara Nichols on May 20,1962 in Brooklyn, NY. She followed her brothers Ronald, and Reginald, and her younger brother, Roy, was born later to the family. She attended Epiphany Lutheran School, Packer Collegiate Institute, and she finished her secondary education at The McBurney School where she served as a student athlete, the first African American student body president, and the first female and first African-American valedictorian in the school’s 64-year history. As a teenager, Janice gave her heart to the Lord and was baptized at her Brooklyn Pentecostal Assembly’s summer camp, Camp Joharie. Outside of school, Janice volunteered at her church as a Sunday school leader and was crowned Queen of her Debutante Ball.
Janice chose to go to Brown University, an Ivy league school in Providence, Rhode Island. At Brown, she made lifelong friends one of whom would become her hero, husband, and life partner, Dr. Darren J. Harper (who was studying to be a medical doctor). Together at Brown University their love of African History and Culture helped them build a strong foundation of faith and service to the Diaspora and the community which permeated their lives.
Janice and Darren Harper joined their hearts in marriage on Saturday, December 24, 1983 at the same church as her mother and grandmother, Zion Baptist Church in Brooklyn, NY. To their union was born three children Nia Zarina, Kamau Osei, and Malik Shaka Idris. They continued their commitment to family and community as they reared their children in Brooklyn, New York.
Early in her career, Janice began to show signs of muscle weakness, but continued to be a strong advocate for children as she pursued her educational goals. She graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Psychology in 1987, and completed two Master degrees (M.A. in Curriculum and Teaching, and Ed.M in Curriculum and Teaching) from Columbia University Teacher’s College in 1998 and 2000, respectively. She was also an elementary school teacher at P.S. 44 and P.S. 145 in Brooklyn, and founded Harper Educational Support Services (H.E.S.S.).
As President/Founder of H.E.S.S., Janice established an educational consulting business that provided innovative comprehensive services to public and private schools, community-based organizations in areas of curriculum, instruction, and assessment to improve the learning outcome of students in Brooklyn, NY, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, GA. She launched an alliance with Spelman College to prepare current students as service leaders for a community literacy project; supervised and coordinated tutoring and reading programs that supported students in the 6th through 8th grades; organized and implemented individualized reading and math curriculum for students with diverse learning needs; designed and implemented multicultural reading and after school programs for diverse urban primary and secondary students; developed an award winning pilot reading program as part of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum; performed staff development trainings to support best practices in curriculum design; organized educational forums for community groups; developed and organized annual writing contests for local school students to increase student involvement in writing and community projects; and collaborated with local schools to help develop partnerships with local businesses.
Her passion for education included both national and international speaking and teaching engagements including two special trips to South Africa where she was a delegate in the People to People Program and then a presenter at the International Reading Association conference. She received numerous awards throughout her lifetime, but her signature achievement was completing her children’s book entitled “Why Oh Why?”
She was an active and engaged member of the National Council of Teachers of English, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the International Reading Association, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, The Clinton Hill School (where she was the Curriculum Chairperson), and the Wa-Greene Block Association (where she served as President from 1997 to 2002). In Brooklyn, she attended The House of the Lord Church and was President of the Education Department from 1998 to 2000. She also attended Emmanuel Baptist Church in Brooklyn where the family worshipped as she wrestled with mobility challenges. When she moved to Atlanta, the family joined the First African Presbyterian Church where she co-founded the Seasoned Women’s group.
She was a dedicated wife, mother, sister, and grandmother. She loved people and had many friends and students. As her muscle condition progressed, she was confined to a wheel chair, but that did not stop her generous spirit and beautiful smile. She was courageous, optimistic, and able to balance grace, strength, and tenacity until the Lord call her home on July 31, 2019.
Preceding her in death were her parents, Dr. Rufus and Janet Nichols, and her father-in-law, LeRoy Harper. She leaves to celebrate her living legacy her loving of 36 years, Dr. Darren Harper, her treasured children: Nia Zarina, Kamau Osei, Malik Shaka Idris; her beloved brothers: Dr. Ronald (Sati) Nichols, Rev. Dr. Reginald (Vanessa) Nichols, Roy Nichols; her cherished grandchildren: Jalen, Zenzele, Manelin, Naade, Mansa; her mother-in-law, Althea Harper, her brothers-in law: Dr. Brian Harper (Penni), Dennis Harper, and a host of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and friends.
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