Janelle DeJesus

A force to be reckoned with

Janelle+DeJesus+in+her+ever+fabulous+debate+outfit+

PC: Janelle DeJesus

Janelle DeJesus in her ever fabulous debate outfit

Aya Kasim, Editor-in-Chief

“Class of 2021 has it worse” is a phrase that becomes more and more true with each passing month and the dwindling of time. Most aspects of senior year have either been forgotten or dramatically altered, depriving this graduating class of the expected joys of their final year. 

However, though the present is unsettling, a future remains to be created by these students with college applications and big life decisions. An embodiment of rising above the circumstance is senior Janelle DeJesus.

Having been an online student entirely this school year, her experience is definitely not what she was hoping for. However, despite the many obstacles that arose, DeJesus tried in every way to preserve what brought her joy and balance a busy schedule. She continued to participate in Band, Newspaper, Speech & Debate, NHS, and a full-time job at Domino’s. 

“Senior year was like watching a movie and expecting it to be as good as the book,” DeJesus said. “This year isn’t like other senior years, but it is mine, so I’m trying to stay positive. While I didn’t get a proper football season with the band or any senior year pep rallies, I still got to watch the sun come up at senior sunrise with my best friend Natalie. I still get to compete alongside my debate friends for our final chances at state. I still got to walk the football field for senior night, and I was still allowed a chance at my senior year marching season; it had turned out better than I could have ever imagined.”

People, friendship, and an understanding that the struggles and flurry of emotions that this year brought was not experienced alone is what kept DeJesus going. From crafts and gift box exchanges to just doing daily tasks together, hand in hand, DeJesus and her friends got through this year. 

“At the start of the year, we spent a lot of time together and spent it by doing homework and getting exercise and basically  just being each others’ emotional support buddies,” senior Natalie Hickman, close friend of DeJesus, said. “Once the pandemic got worse and we stopped seeing each other, we’d talk on the phone almost every day. It was just nice to know that someone had my back and I had theirs.”

One of the most central aspects of DeJesus’ year was college applications. She applied to six colleges and universities: University of Northern Arizona, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of the Incarnate Word, St. John’s University, University of North Texas, and Columbia University.  She has heard back from all except Columbia and each has offered her extraordinary scholarships to pursue her passion–journalism. 

“A life in journalism in New York has always felt like a dream, something that I imagined but would never get to live out, but now it’s my senior year of high school and I have been given the opportunity to live out this dream,” DeJesus said. “When you are presented with the opportunity to make your dreams a reality, take it, what are you waiting for?” 

Despite the great results, however, the process was grueling. With FAFSA, recommendation letters, required forms, and essays, DeJesus was rightfully overwhelmed. Though, in the end, she sent in everything on time and to her liking, one misstep created a memorable panic: for one college, DeJesus’ early decision form got lost and her application was pushed to regular decision. 

“I remember panicking, thinking that my chances of getting into this school were over, but I took a deep breath and realized that I was still on track for regular admission,” DeJesus said. “For someone who had worked hard on their application, I remember being completely and utterly frustrated, I also remember crying and claiming that my life was over. Spoiler alert: it most definitely was not. Setbacks and challenges happen to everything, it’s inevitable, but how you handle the problem is what will truly set you up for success.”

Such an understanding and appreciation for the process of anything is what gives DeJesus the dedication to devote her life to writing, a love she cannot do without.

“The art of writing is truly liberating, as it allows you to express yourself in a way no one has seen before,” DeJesus said. “Your mind is a powerful tool, but so is your heart, which is why I have chosen a profession that allows me to express both simultaneously.”

After this year and the ones before, experience is on DeJesus’ side. She wishes to give upcoming seniors two pieces of advice. The first is to cultivate good connections and relationships with your teachers/mentors. Personally, DeJesus credits three of her teachers for continually motivating and inspiring over the years: Caitlin Schmidt (Newspaper), Dustin Hurley (Debate), and Thomas Galvez (Band).

“These teachers have been my rock when I felt down on myself,” DeJesus said. “They have seen me at my best and worst, have listened to my unnecessary high school dilemmas, and have all seen me cry on more occasions than I would like to admit. Despite all of it though, they stood by me, pushed me, and allowed me to be a better student, leader, speaker, writer, and person.”

Secondly, DeJesus urges students to, “simply enjoy your time here as a Panther.” It feels like just yesterday she was receiving the tour of the high school and now she is preparing to leave it. For students with a bit more time left, take advantage of where you are in this place and time.

“Allow yourself to take risks and make memories,” DeJesus said. “High school is only as good as you make it, so I encourage you to join more clubs and meet new people. High school comes and goes, but the friends and memories you make in it are forever.”

Everyone goes through high school, but the experience is different for each. DeJesus gave the last four years every bit of her efforts, love, and dedication. Because of such, she has left an impact in the greatest way a person can–in the people. And, just the same, Medina Valley has impacted her.

“This year was different, that’s for sure, but it also made me realize just how much you should appreciate the little time we are given together in high school,” DeJesus said. “This year is ending, and soon we’re going to all go our separate ways. I guess all I’m trying to say is that I was thankful and appreciative of the opportunities that have been given to me, in the end I’m really going to miss ‘The Best High School in Texas’.”