Do you have a patriotic spirit?
When Jenessa’s uncle went to Iraq, she wanted to do something to honor him. She decided making bracelets would be a great way to show her support. They really caught on; 200,000 bracelets later, she’s still giving them away for free! She’s met some interesting people and has done some fun things along the way. Read about her mission to bring all the troops home and how she’s an inspiration to others!
How old are you?
I am 15 years old.
Where do you live?
I live in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, just outside of the twin cities.
What grade are you in?
I am a sophomore in high school.
Tell us the story about how you got started making bracelets and how harmsway4kids.com came about.
When my uncle Mike was deployed to Iraq, I wanted to do something to honor his deployment. At first, I was going to wear a yellow hair binder around my wrist. When I realized it fell off too easily, I made myself a bracelet. Soon, many kids at my school and in my community also wanted to wear bracelets to support a deployed loved one or friend. I gave bracelets to some of my friends and within days, there were so many requests that I had to develop a new way to get the bracelets out. With the help of my family, I made the web site www.harmsway4kids.com. From there, it snowballed!
How many bracelets have you made so far?
I've made 242,000 bracelets!
What keeps you motivated to continue making them?
I would have to say the troops keep me motivated. They are such amazing people. Sometimes when I feel like quitting, I’ll get an email from a soldier talking about how the bracelet boosted his morale, or how much it meant to him and his friends. I hear stories about how their families wear them with pride. Sometimes I even get sad emails that keep me motivated. Once, a young lady told me that her husband was found dead in Iraq with the bracelet clutched in his fist. He had requested to be buried with the bracelet because of what it represented in our country, a reminder that the youth of today still care for our community. I'm also motivated because I think it shows other students around the country how they, too, can make a difference just by starting something small.
Since you started, you’ve gotten to meet important people like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jay Leno, the Chief of Staff, and others. What has been the most memorable moment you’ve had since starting harmsway4kids.com?
Probably going to the Pentagon! I was only in seventh grade when I went there. At first, the troops couldn't wear the bracelets because they were not part of their uniform. So, I pulled a few strings and made a few quick phone calls to get a meeting in the Pentagon with the Chief of Staff of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. We discussed the issue and within hours I had a directive being sent down to the ENTIRE military saying that the troops could wear my Harms Way 4 Kids bracelets—and only mybracelets! This was a memorable experience because it showed the power that kids my age have and that we CAN make changes in our world.
How has your family helped you?
My mother has put countless hours into the project. She travels with me, takes care of all the online and administrative stuff, and always keeps me rolling. My dad takes care of all the Harms Way 4 Kids finances and has willingly devoted most of the garage to stacks of boxes. My brothers and sisters (I am the youngest of 2 brothers, 2 sisters, a sister-in-law, and a brother-in-law) have always been supportive and helped when they could. Everyone's been really encouraging and wonderful the entire time.
What is your goal with harmsway4kids.com?
Right now the goal is to get all the bracelets out to everyone who wants one. This could take a while considering right now we have about 90,000 bracelets on back order. And, we are getting about 100-200 orders for more braclets a day!
What advice would you give teens that have the desire to make changes in the world?
Just because you are young doesn't mean you can't make a difference. Right now in our society, it is so easy to make an impact. No matter the size, anything can be significant. As young adults, opportunities knock at our door every day. It's just about seeing those opportunities and acting upon them. Leaders can arise from the need for change—regardless of their age!
Running a HUGE program like harmsway4kids.com must take up a lot of your time. What do you do to stay healthy and stress-free?
I am in a lot of other activities both in school and out of school. Some of these include SWAT (Students Who are Against Tobacco), UNC (United North Campus—a student leadership program at my school), piano lessons, softball, track and field in the spring, cross country in the fall, and competitive dance all year round. I also love acting and singing. I keep myself very busy, but I always make time just to hang out with friends and relax.
Besides supporting the troops, are there any other issues you’re concerned about?
Always! Every day I see things in the world that I would LOVE to assist with. However, right now I feel it is most important to tackle the challenges of our world, one project at a time. I know there are tons of things out there, and if there comes a day when Harms Way 4 Kids isn't my main project, I might get involved with something else.
I think school bullying is a big issue and a lot of adult friends of mine have suggested I act upon this. I've been bullied at school because of Harms Way 4 Kids. While a lot of my friends are really supportive, some of the kids aren't.
What do you want to do when you get out of high school? Why?
I am not really 100 percent sure of what I want to do. But, I definitely want to go to medical school. I am hoping to become a pediatrician and open up my own office. I love interacting with people. I also love kids, so I think it would be a good profession for me. When I was little, I had a lot of bad experiences at doctors' offices. Since then, I've always wanted to be the one to make going to the doctor a fun and friendly experience for kids!
Content last reviewed January 01, 2007
Page last updated January 01, 2007