(WITH VIDEO) – Paralyzed from the chest down after a bullet hit right above her heart, Missy Jenkins Smith still manages to pick herself up and will speak to students at Murray State.
The Office of Student Disability Services will sponsor Jenkins Smith’s presentation at 7 p.m. on Feb. 10 in the Large Ballroom in the Curris Center.
Jenkins Smith is a victim of a regional public school shooting that happened more than a decade ago.
On Dec. 1, 1997, a bullied 14-year-old boy opened fire in Heath High School inside Paducah, Ky., killing three and injuring five people during a prayer circle in the school lobby.
As time passed, Jenkins Smith did something unthinkable: she forgave the shooter, accepted her disability and reclaimed her life.
“I was able to graduate college, work the career of my dreams, get married and have children,” Jenkins Smith said.
Regardless of her disability, Jenkins Smith was able to do everything she wanted in life.
“I chose to be happy,” Jenkins Smith said. “I am making my own choices and not letting my disability get in my way.”
During her program, Jenkins Smith will discuss the events of that day, while talking about bully prevention, the power of forgiveness and violence prevention.
“I was 16 years old,” Jenkins Smith said. “I had to grow up faster than most of the people my age.”
Cindy Clemson, assistant director of Student Disability Services, said the office chose Jenkins Smith’s story because it is a good follow-up to RJ Mitte’s story from last semester.
This is not Jenkins Smith’s debut at Murray State. She said she has spoken here a few times before because the message is geared toward a mature audience.
“I feel like (Murray State) is the best place to reach young people to benefit from the message of perseverance and forgiveness,” Jenkins Smith said.
She will sign copies of her book “I Chose to Be Happy: A School Shooting Survivor’s Triumph over Tragedy” before and after the event.
The book contains questions for discussion between students, teachers and parents on topics such as bullying, forgiveness, setting goals and overcoming obstacles.
Jenkins Smith said the biggest challenge she has to overcome in everyday life is her ability to complete simple tasks.
“It takes me longer to get things done, but with patience and working with it I can get it done,” she said.
Story by Brittany Risko, Staff writer