Two months ago, a new student joined my Pre-K class. I remember the first time her mother dropped her off in my classroom. She kissed her head, and said "I love you, sweetie!" before leaving. The little girl never replied.
That little girl's name is Jenna (pictured left). I've followed Jenna around my classroom for eight weeks now, and it’s safe to say I'm completely infatuated with her. I would describe her as curious, goofy, and clever. She loves to paint, climb, and organize toys into collections. She loves to ride the school bus, read books in our library, and be chased around the playground. Her smile and laughter bring joy to everyone around her.
She is nonverbal and on the Autism spectrum. Autism is different for every child. In Jenna’s case, her expressive language regressed significantly at two years old, but parts of her receptive language remain intact. While most of her thoughts come out in babbles, occupational therapists declare promise in Jenna’s ability to speak again and gain independence in the future. They proved it by teaching her five new words in one session.
Jenna has two sisters, Emma (pictured middle) and Kenna (pictured right), and an amazing mother named Bethany. Back home in Texas, they lived a good life with the father, until he slipped into an addiction problem and was incarcerated. Bethany had stopped working after finding out about Jenna’s Autism, so it was a big hit to the family when the father lost his job and was taken away. The family spent two years trying to work through their struggles when it became clear things were only getting worse. To protect her daughters and have a fresh start at life, Bethany left for Colorado with the help of some family friends.
However, a few weeks after the move, the friends backed out of supporting the family of four. Jenna, Emma, Kenna, and Bethany were left homeless. Each day, they line up at the homeless shelter at 3:30pm. Sometimes they get in and sometimes they are left to sleep in the car. From their nights at the shelter, the three girls' heads have been infested with lice, time and time again. Bethany is desperate to begin working full time, but her hours are limited when she has to line up at the shelter every afternoon and keep her daughters home from school when they have lice.
My dream goal is to help Jenna's family move into a two-bedroom rental home before Christmas. Even while homeless, they attend church every Sunday. During the holidays, this family deserves to be encompassed by faith, love, joy, comfort, and stability. Giving Bethany and her girls a stable place to live will allow them to make everlasting changes and get back on their feet. A stable home life will be incredibly beneficial to Emma, Kenna, and especially Jenna. With this bit of control back in their lives, there will be time for the girls to explore their hobbies and passions, and Jenna will also be able to receive the therapies she needs to thrive. My biggest wish is to witness Jenna telling her family that she loves them someday. Bethany is one of the most loving mothers in the world and will do anything for her daughters. I hope we can all help her give her children a home.
A special thank you to everyone who contributes to Jenna's journey. Anything from prayers to donations is greatly appreciated. Words cannot describe what your support means to her family and me.
About me: My name is Dana and I live in Fort Collins, CO. I am a UC Davis alum and Jenna's Pre-K teacher. One day, I would like to become a speech and language pathologist. You can reach me on Facebook fb.me/AHomeForJenna
, Messenger m.me/AHomeForJenna
, and Twitter twitter.com/AHomeForJenna