“Hi, my name is Jasmine Taylor. I am a sophomore here at Shepard. I know most of you don’t know me or that I’ve been fighting leukemia.”
Before she could finish the first paragraph, Dean of Students Jacki Frederking choked on the words that Jasmine wrote. Over the course of the next six minutes, Frederking’s voice broke many times as she shared the story of the Shepard High School sophomore’s fight and resilience.
Diagnosed shortly before the start of school, Jasmine – through Frederking – bravely shared her story with her school. She clearly recalled sitting with her mom, Sonya, and hearing the news.
“My heart was racing. The first thing thought that entered my mind was ‘death.’ I was so scared,” Frederking read.
Jasmine’s story would serve as the centerpiece of the St. Baldrick’s assembly at Shepard, where students and staff set a new record with more than $21,000 in donations for pediatric cancer research.
With the support of her mom, family, and friends, Jasmine has remained in school and focused on her future.
“You’ve all made me stronger and kept me going. I know how good it feels to have someone who understands. If you’re ever going through anything, or have questions for me, or just need a friend, I’ll always be there for you,” Frederking read.
After Frederking finished reading, Jasmine had some fun: She shaved the head of Shepard security officer Shirley Jones. Jasmine and Jones have grown close in recent months – last year, Jones had her head shaved to support her son, Jimmy, who fights Hodgkins lymphoma.
“I was walking to the back of the school with Jasmine. I knew who she was. I asked her, ‘do you know who I am?’ She did. With tears in her eyes she said “can I ask you some questions and will you tell me the truth?’” said Jones, who promised to speak honestly.
Jasmine and Jones have developed a close bond. Learning that Jones’ son has done well in the past year has helped Jasmine.
“She said ‘well now that gives me hope!’ Every day we talk and sometimes we cry,” Jones said.
Frederking has volunteered for fund raisers for the American Cancer Society and St. Baldrick’s for two decades. She’s certain that when young people like Jasmine step forward to share their fight, others find inspiration to get involved.
“I believe that when someone brave like Jasmine steps forward to share their story, cancer becomes real,” said Frederking. “Though cancer does not discriminate, it can be hard for some people to relate to St. Baldrick’s or the American Cancer Society Relay for Life until they meet someone who is their peer like Jasmine.”