AMAZEworks Persona Dolls are friends who enter children’s learning environments to support and nurture their development of empathy and understanding. The dolls share their stories to help create a safe space for children to explore differences. However, their journeys start long before they ever enter the classroom. Jennifer Goggleye has been creating Persona Dolls with AMAZEworks for seven years. When she first started, she missed spending time with her family, so she started bringing them in to help. Over the last seven years, Jennifer’s mother and three of her children–Irene, Roger, and Jarvis–have helped her stuff, sew, and dress the dolls in order to bring them to life. We spoke with Jennifer and Jarvis, the newest addition to the Persona Doll team, to learn more about what it’s like to make Persona Dolls together as a family. What we learned is that Persona Dolls champion belonging by deepening relationships at every stage of their lives.
Jennifer and Jarvis showed us that storytelling plays just as important a role in bringing the dolls to life as it does in the classroom. As Jennifer and her family sew, they reminisce on past family memories, gush over the kids’ nieces and nephew, and share insights about their culture, spirituality, and values. For Jarvis, creating Persona Dolls makes him think about the life lessons yet to come. “As the youngest, I’m still making the stories.” He sees making Persona Dolls as a part of his bigger picture and is always seeking deeper meaning behind his experiences as a new team member. Sewing together helps to keep their family stories alive.
In addition to encouraging the deepening of relationships, creating Persona Dolls has also supported internal transformation among this family. “Working with AMAZEworks has changed me emotionally.” Jennifer shares that she was often driven by anger in her past, and it was difficult for her to imagine other people’s circumstances. Now, she recognizes that she cannot make assumptions about what other people are going through. Persona Dolls have shifted the way she moves throughout the world. Jennifer has now made more of a practice of extending empathy and understanding to others, and she brings these lessons back home to her family. While she wishes she had access to anti-bias learning materials in her own education journey, Persona Dolls are still making a powerful impact on her life as an adult.
As a result, Jennifer now sees the dolls as an extension of her family. She says, “Each doll has its own spirit, vision, and wisdom that can help that one student be brave enough and beautiful in their own mind and heart… I’m happy with them, just like I’m happy when I’m with my kids.” Over the past seven years, Jennifer and her family members’ hands have brought countless dolls into the lives of children. Jennifer recognizes that one doll has the power to transform the relationships between students and teachers, just as the dolls have impacted her own life and family relationships.
When you hold a Persona Doll, you hold a doll who carries stories from every place they have ever been and also has their own story to share. Our hope is that every hand that holds our Persona Dolls feels the love and care that helped bring them to life and passes it onto others. AMAZEworks is so grateful to Jennifer and her family for bringing Persona Dolls into classrooms across the Twin Cities, Minnesota, and the nation. This family’s passion gives life to so many dolls in a way that never fails to deepen our understanding of what it means to create the conditions for belonging. Thank you for your work to bring belonging to life!
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