The years 2002-2004 were very challenging for my family. After ringing in the year 2002, my mom was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer, only given a short period of time to live. This took a huge toll on the family, but we all remained strong for her. Ironically, she was the strongest out of all of us. She was still with us in 2003 and things started to normalize. Things were getting better.
Near the end of year 2003, the unexpected happened. Coming home from a trip to Walmart, I wanted to show my sister, Kimberly, the new toy I had purchased. What I saw changed the rest of my life. My sister took her own life. She was in the hospital for two weeks, and I will never forget the doctors and nurses telling my family and I that my sister wouldn’t make it.
Out of all of us, my mother was the most distraught, but she continued to remain strong. Strong for her kids, strong for me. She passed away five months later, three days after Mother’s Day. She lived a whole two and a half years after her diagnosis when doctors thought she had no more than six months to live. Amazing.
While the events leading up to my mother’s passing affected my entire family, I remember a weight being lifted off the family when my mother passed. She wasn’t suffering anymore, and we knew she was now with Kim.
After these events, my dad continued to instill the importance of education in every single one of us. My two sisters and I graduated with high honors in high school, my two sisters have successfully earned their masters degrees, and I will soon begin a masters program as well. I remember Kim being a bright student as well, always taking home certificates and trophies for her accomplishments. I’m pretty sure Kim would have been successful in anything she set her mind too as well.
I went into the field of education for a variety of reasons, among them, to try and make a difference in at least one kid’s life. I’ve always told myself that if I was able to do this, I would succeed. I teach four sections of U.S. Government with seniors, but I also teach one section of a class called Freshman Studies with… Freshman. Sometime in November last year, the other Freshman Studies teachers and I were planning out the rest of the school year's lesson plans. One teacher expressed that she wanted to talk to her classes about suicide, and on the calendar on December 1, we were scheduled to do so.
There were many interesting points to be made about this.
- Kim was 14 when she took her life in 2003, 2003 was 14 years ago.
- Kim was a Freshman in HS when she passed, I would be talking to a group of Freshman about Kim’s story.
- Kim passed on December 2, 2003, I would talk to my class about this topic on December 1, 2017.
I admittedly told my Freshmen it’s crazy to think that she was in a similar classroom setting when she was thinking about taking her own life and that even though I joke about how young they are, they are old enough to potentially make unfortunate choices like these. The students were receptive to this lecture with a couple of students visiting me after school to talk more about the topic. Tragedy, adversity, and challenges aren’t uncommon for any family. For our family, our outcomes ended up positive, and my dad played an integral role ensuring that we continue to value education and supported us through our undergraduate studies.
For others families, I have seen first-hand the amount of intelligent students who lack basic needs on a daily basis who struggle to make ends meet. Students who want to go to college, but don’t know where to start. Students who have faced adversity but manage to keep a smile on their face.
This leads me to the exciting news I wanted to share. I wanted to take a portion of my education reimbursement from Apple and formally establish a scholarship fund to honor my sister, Kimberly Bognot.
I am proud to say that “The Kimberly Bognot Memorial Scholarship” will soon be a reality.
It’s been in the works for a few weeks and I plan on signing off on the final paperwork this week.
Up until today, I kept the project a secret, and I finally told my sisters about my plan. One of my sisters, who is one year younger than Kim, reached out to some of Kim’s friends after hearing about the plan. Within minutes, I have already received over $1000 in donations, on top of the initial $1000 I was going to put toward the initial launch. Many people have also pledged to donate to the fund, and I am truly in shock of how quickly this all came about.
My plan is to launch the Kimberly Bognot Memorial Scholarship with The Public Education Foundation https://thepef.academicworks.com/ by only initially accepting applications within the high school I currently work at, Valley High School, and to expand it to Green Valley High School the following year, where my sisters and I attended, and eventually to all CCSD schools the year after.
It is my goal, as well as those who have donated to The Kimberly Bognot Memorial Fund, to bring awareness to mental illness, suicide, adversity, and stories of success. It is also my goal to honor her name and legacy for many years to come. I am truly in shock of how one small idea was able to be quickly turned into a reality. However, with a free spirit like my sister Kimberly, who had touched hundreds of people throughout her short time on Earth, I am not surprised.
I thank you in advance for taking the time to read about this.
I will establish a separate bank account for all funds received for this scholarship, and a website will be created to recognize your patronage. I appreciate you all.