Meet Johnell and Jaunesia

If you could look up supportive siblings in the dictionary, you would most likely see Johnell and Jaunesia Davis there.

Johnell and Jaunesia

My community did not have any resources, so I decided to become a resource
A brother and a sister stand in the middle of a basketball court

If you could look up supportive siblings in the dictionary, you would most likely see Johnell and Jaunesia Davis there. 

Devoting considerable time to the basketball court, Johnell, a prominent guard for the Florida Atlantic Owls, gained widespread recognition when his team reached the Final Four last season. 

On the court, Johnell's family is a constant presence, adorned in custom shirts as they enthusiastically cheer for him. 

Despite living in Indiana, Jaunesia has attended as many of Johnell’s games as she could, going the extra mile to express her support by having custom shirts and hoodies made. Beyond the court, the reciprocity of support is evident as he cheers on his sister in her endeavors for the autism community. 

Jaunesia’s son, DeYaire, was diagnosed with autism at age three, and that diagnosis started a new cause for the family to support. 

In Gary, Indiana, where the family hails from, services for autism were limited. After getting help for her son, Jaunesia wanted to do the same for the children of Gary. 

She started the nonprofit, We Are The Village Inc., to help provide services for those in the local autism community three years ago. 

Supporting the autism community is something Johnell has done at his games as well. For one of his open houses, he teased Jaunesia that he wasn’t just going to come in a t-shirt. He said, “I'm coming different than y'all. I'm coming harder than y'all.” 

Jaunesia beams as she recalls, Johnell came decked out in “custom autism shoes and he had a custom autism hoodie, and this is his open house, and he still dedicated that to my son and bringing more awareness to autism.” 

We caught up with the siblings, to learn more about the nonprofit.   

A basketball player in a red jersey cries with his sister for support during an autism celebration

Can you tell us a little more about why you started the “We Are the Village?”  

Jaunesia: We started, We Are The Village for my son who was diagnosed with autism. When I got the autism diagnosis, my community did not have any resources, so I decided to become a resource.

Why is autism advocacy, acceptance, and inclusion so important to both of you? 

Jaunesia: It's especially important because when my son was diagnosed with autism, I did not know anything. Neither did my family. We didn't know where to go, who to call. We didn't kn know anything about autism. And I felt like once I finally found those resources and got that help for my child, that the children in Gary, Indiana deserved the same.

Johnell: I just see my sister doing it and I just want to help her and have her back at whatever she is doing.

Favorite moment at We Are The Village, so far?  

Johnell: It's all great, but one of my favorite moments was one of her first picnics. It was just little kids coming, and that just made me happy.

Jaunesia: And my favorite moment is opening the ABA clinic in Gary, Indiana because it was just a vision and I didn't really think I could do it, but I did it and it's done. So, that’s my greatest accomplishment.

If you could tell the entire world one thing about autism, what would it be and why? 

 Johnell: I know everyone has different stories, and it's an effective way to spread how autism is so different. I'll say the kids are smart, take your time with them, and be patient with them. Patience is key.

Jaunesia: Yes, I would say patience is the key. Don't judge a book by its cover because on the outside you might not think that my son knows everything about a car, how to build a car, take a car apart, wheels, the motor, the engine, but he really does and those little quirks about children with autism you should take into consideration.

We call this series Community Ally, what does that mean to you?  

Jaunesia: Being a community ally to me means being a resource. I like to say that We Are The Village, is a parent’s local lifesaver. So being able to fill the void of when, if you are a parent, like me with nobody to support you and you don’t know where to go. I'm proud and I'm honored to say that We Are The Village, is a place where you don't have to say, ‘I'm sorry’.

You are a bit like an autism representative for your team. What is that like?  

Johnell: Yeah, I try to let the team know what's going on. I try to get my nephew involved in it (the games) and try to tell my team to be patient too.

Jaunesia: Yes, we were at the school yesterday and it was the DeYaire’s first time. Nelly was introducing everybody and they just let him roam around in the gym freely. Everybody acknowledged that he was there and let him run around freely. I really appreciated it. That's what it's all about. 

Do you have advice for other siblings of autistic children? 

Jaunesia: So the the reason I named my company We Are The Village, is because it takes a village to raise a child. When my son got diagnosed with autism, I had to sit my whole family down and we had to come to the same conclusion that, ok, he has autism and we cannot treat him differently. We all have to be actively involved.

Johnell: My advice is to be there for your siblings, listen to your siblings, and help them wherever you can help them. When you're in public, don't be ashamed to be around them and enjoy the moment with them.

So when you're getting ready to go to work or to play a game, do you have a favorite motivation song? 

Jaunesia: The Places You’ll Go by Major 9 because it is so good. But also, The Greatest by Rod Wave. 

Johnell: (laughs) Yeah mine is The Greatest or something like that.  

Learn more about We Are The Village here. 

The story shared above represents the experience, views and perspectives of the individual(s) highlighted. We aim to share stories across the spectrum and throughout the life span, but the information provided on our website is not a recommendation, referral or endorsement of any resource, therapeutic method, or service provider and does not replace the advice of medical, legal or educational professionals.