Beavercreek City Schools
On May 18, 2008, just days before Jessica Waters was to become 12, got the news that would rock her world. Finally, the trouble she was having with focusing and remembering in school was given a name. Jessica became one of the estimated 2.5 million Americans diagnosed with Epilepsy, a disease of the central nervous system.
Suddenly, this young girl who liked to think of herself as the ‘tough kid’ was fighting the battle of her life. In her teenage years she has experienced three kinds of seizures including seven grand mal seizures. And her medicine altered her personality. Jessica was told she could no longer ride her bike and coaches no longer wanted her on their sports teams. She was asked not to attend parties. She was told she would never be able to dance, tumble or cheer again – her great passions. She was harassed and bullied.
It was a summer camp, Camp Flamecatcher for children with epilepsy and other disabilities, where Jessica came to realize she CAN still swim, canoe, run, swing, and do arts and crafts. And, she saw other kids doing those things too.
“It really opened my eyes,” she said. “Kids don’t realize how much they can do. Camp taught me that epilepsy wasn’t a defining factor in my life.”
But that experience wouldn’t have been possible for her without a sponsor. It is a gift that she is paying forward. She founded Cupcake Charity (with support from her mom) to raise scholarship money to send other kids to Camp Flamecatcher whose families otherwise couldn’t afford the cost. Jessica raised enough for two partial and one full scholarship, and she is working hard to raise more this year.
The Camp experience also stirred her to action in another way. “People just don’t listen to young people well and I thought what better way to do something about that then to go for a title,” she said. “I researched the pageant organizations that care about what you do for others and that is what I am all about.”
Meet Miss Junior Teen Ohio 2012
At 15, Jessica – Miss Junior Teen Ohio 2012 – is a dedicated advocate for the Epilepsy Foundation, a member of her school’s Varsity Dance Team, a cheerleader for Beavercreek City Schools, received an All Team Academic Award and varsity letter for playing hockey, and is always looking for volunteer opportunities. Jessica is the youngest TWIG Auxiliary member for Dayton Children’s Hospital and is working with Julie Vann (previous mayor of Beavercreek) to establish a scholarship in honor of students her school has lost. For all that Jessica has accomplished, her list of accolades is simply too long to list.
I asked Jessica what her message is to other young people like herself. “I tell them to not let their disease or disability define them. You can do anything you put your mind to.”
I think that is a great lesson for all of us.