ABOUT JENNA



photo courtesy of Kathy Burdick


I, Jennifer, more commonly known as Jenna, am a 13.75-year-old girl desperate to finish my novel and become published.

I love Jesus and books, tolerate school and homework, and absolutely detest Chinese bok choy and computers that randomly turn off while I am working. I also enjoy writing, reading, hanging out with friends, playing the clarinet, and baking. 

Most of all, I love making beautiful things—whether from a once-blank paper or a friend’s broken life—grow out of thorns and dust and burst into riotous blossom.

My primary educational aspiration is to become a missionary pediatric doctor. Whenever I see or read about people who suffer or die from lack of adequate medical treatment, whether in Africa or the Appalachians, my heart breaks.


Most kids my age have a hobby, and in-depth reading about medicine for both purpose and enjoyment is one of mine. I enjoy serving people and seeing the smile on their face when I help them. 

I want to go to college and then medical school. Many times my parents have explained to me the challenges of earning M.D. initials—going to school for a prolonged time, taking out extensive loans, studying—but I still dream big. I know it will be hard, but all things worth having demand a price.

My other goal doesn’t fit as much with education, but it’s still a big part of me. Unlike the average middle-school pre-teen, writing is my all-time favorite thing. Someday, as soon as possible, I want to be a published author. 


Last summer I gave the fantasy characters that were clamoring inside my head for three years a voice and began to write their story. I now have one hundred fifty typed pages. This isn’t even half of it. I still have a long way to go, but I think I can fulfill this dream before I graduate. 

Maybe it’s folly to think I could be published by the end of high school, but to me that dream is so real I spent nearly the entire summer giving it wings.

 ~Jenna’s own words, written when she was in seventh and eighth grade. Compiled from her bookemon.com bio and her Duke TIP scholarship essays.


photo courtesy of Kathy Burdick


photo courtesy of Kathy Burdick













 

After homeschooling and participating in the Mauldin Middle School band, Jenna attended Sterling School’s Charles Townes Center for the Highly Gifted in seventh and eighth grade. She took part in Student Council, Creative Writing Club, and Junior Beta Club--and was delighted to be named queen of her school’s Valentine’s Day dance. 

In addition, Jenna was recognized as a South Carolina Junior Scholar through Duke University’s Talent Identification Program. 

She played in the Greenville County Youth Orchestra and received all-county and all-region honors in band. She was also involved in the City Church (now Bridgeway Church) youth group. As a freshman in an International Baccalaureate Program, Jenna was part of Southside High School’s marching and concert band. Before her death, Jenna was training to run track. 

Jenna loved learning, loved people, and loved life. She was beautiful. 

On January 2, 2013, however, she chose to end her life. She had told no one. There were no warning signs, no previous attempts, no indicators of mental illness. From an abundance of writings Jenna left behind, her mom has attempted to piece together what happened. The writings offer understanding, but no solid answers. 

After reading Jenna’s freshman-year journal and suicide note, a professional counselor said, “If I had been given the opportunity to read this before Jenna’s death, I would have seen no red flags for suicide—only normal struggles faced by normal teenagers.” 

But lies spoken by peers had somehow lodged within Jenna’s heart, with the pain of them tainting the way she saw herself and her life, until living became more than she thought she could bear. 

In the letter she left behind, Jenna wrote, “I love you all so much, and I’m so sorry for leaving. Please forgive me. I would hate to die knowing that you never forgave me for what I did.” 


Jenna was fourteen.

Life without her here is no longer the same. 

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing and being so open. I want to learn more and to make a difference in the lives of others.

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    1. You're very welcome. Thanks for reading, for caring, for responding. I imagine that, as a mother of eight, you're impacting many lives. Abundant blessings to you.

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  2. Beth...your blog post has been shared many times in our hometown as graduation comes closer here in the Midwest. It has especially hit home for many as we recently put two neighbor's sons' to rest due to suicide. A week apart, both college students, both wonderful families with great love. As a former teacher I too am just stunned how sometimes warning signs exist, and other times they do not. I am beyond angry when I read about kids like Jenna who experience bullying and this horrible cycle of nastiness continues. I wish I knew the remedy. My prayers are for you, and for both Joe and Jordan's mothers. I couldn't imagine a greater pain.

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  3. Thank you, Giovanna, for sharing this. It sounds as if you can relate in many ways.

    My heart aches for the families of Joe and Jordan. I'm so sorry. Since Jenna's death, I've heard of many suicide attempts and completions--more than I ever would have imagined, many of them unforeseen. I'm devastated every time I do. I don't think I'll ever get used to hearing it.

    I will pray for your hometown tonight as graduation approaches. It's a difficult day--for the family first, but the community too.

    I don't know the remedy either, but your words encourage me to continue to write and share the story as best I can in hopes that it will somehow make a difference and let others know they're not alone. Thank you for caring and reaching out to those who hurt.

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  4. Your loss breaks my heart. I can't thank you enough for taking your pain and letting it become your passion to help others. I pray that God will bless your efforts and make a big difference with these two huge problems - bullying and suicide. Yes, the madness needs to end. When people like you speak up, things can change.

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    1. Thank you for reading, for caring, and for writing such encouraging words. Both the pain of Jenna's loss and the enormity of the problem can seem overwhelming at times, so this means more than you probably know.

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