a community engagement initiative of Momence CUSD #1
It becomes apparent within the first few minutes after meeting Jaylee Kersey that honesty and authenticity are of utmost importance to her. She is refreshingly open and genuine in her interactions with others, and expects nothing less from them in return. “I like to express my feelings,” she states. “I can’t keep it in, or I will just die inside."
By Steve Dallape
Everybody really is equal here, and everybody is treated the same way. That’s what I like.
One of the things about herself that she has no trouble discussing is her struggle with anxiety. “I have anxiety, and I have panic attacks, so I‘m always second-guessing myself,” she confides. She shares that her dad has been through a lot of the same struggles that she is facing, and is able to impart his hard-won wisdom to her, and help her through when she needs support. She is clear to give her mother the credit that she deserves, as well, pointing out her mom’s big influence on who Jaylee and who she is becoming. “She’s very comforting. She’s very sensitive, too,” Jaylee notes. “I get the sensitive part from her.” She especially appreciates not only the way that her mom comforts and supports her during tough times, but the way that she offers up helpful constructive criticism. “She’ll just bring you up,” Kaylee says.
A three-sport athlete (softball, track and football), Jaylee also gets a lot of support from her friends and teammates. “A lot of times, right before the games or the meets, I would freak out. My friends were always there to help me, they would always comfort me and tell me I’m the best, I can do this, and not to worry about other people,” she says.
The supportive, nurturing family and friend group that Jaylee enjoys is no doubt a big factor in her life, as evidenced by her strong sense of empathy and passionate drive to help others. She aspires to become a doctor or a police officer, “so I can help people,” she relates. “Because I don’t like seeing people hurt, or in bad situations. Because that just breaks my heart a little bit.” This seventh-grader already possesses the wisdom to be a difference-maker in the life of someone who might be tackling tough issues in their own life. She shares that, when she was younger, she was very hard on herself when she made mistakes or failed at something. Her dad gave her a transformative piece of advice when he told her that one bad thing doesn’t have to ruin her whole day. “Don’t take everything so hard,” she says. It’s a simple, but powerful, idea that Jaylee took to heart.
Even though Jaylee is surrounded by family and friends that love and support her at all times, she feels that it is important to reach out beyond her immediate circle. “When I was younger, I kept to myself and my friends,” she remembers. ”I didn’t want to express myself, but now I see that it helps a lot of people. You comfort them, and it makes them feel good.” She believes that you don’t have to be a close friend to make a positive difference in someone’s life. “You can be enemies, and still help them,” she says. She intuitively recognizes the positive effect that small kindnesses can have on a person. “The small things count, and later in life, they become big things,” she states.
That said, Jaylee is quick to note that the one thing that she most likes about her school is the general goodwill and harmony that pervades its hallways. “Everybody gets along, and we don’t really bully each other,” she says. “We understand each other.” She has heard stories from others who attend school in different districts that, in their schools, those who are different are often picked on, or ridiculed. Jaylee is grateful that her school bucks that trend. “I’m just glad that’s not in our school, because there’s a lot of people that are different, and they should be treated equally,” she states, emphatically. “We have all different sizes, all different races,” she continues,” and nobody gets picked on for it. Everybody really is equal here, and everybody is treated the same way. That’s what I like.”