I was saddened to hear the news that Emma, one of the Project Jericho students who participated in our summer mural arts project, took her own life a few days ago. She was only 14 years old. Emma was the “umbrella girl” in the mural, and the fact that she was chosen to be the model to represent young people who overcome great challenges speaks to her standing among her peers and staff members at Project Jericho, an arts-based youth organization in Springfield, Ohio. Though she had stopped regularly attending in recent months, Emma had been heavily involved in a variety of activities at the center, including dance, music, painting and poetry. She was a spirited and immensely talented girl. These programs and the people she met there provided a bright spot in a life that was evidently filled with pain to an extent that none of us can imagine, and that no one realized until it was too late. Tragedies like this remind me of the importance of reaching out to young people– especially those with difficult home lives and those from marginalized communities– and providing positive activities for them to become involved in, such as the arts, education and sports programs.
My thoughts are with Emma’s friends, family and Project Jericho staff members who were moved by her warmth and bright spirit during her all-too-brief lifetime.