On any given weekday evening, Jena is likely to be found quietly working in the Horton’s Kids computer lab. She joined Horton’s Kids 11 years ago as a 5-year-old and was paired with Roy, who has been her tutor, mentor, and friend ever since.
Roy, a physicist with an insatiable love of learning, was quick to recognize Jena’s intellectual curiosities and nurture them. He said: “Jena as a 5-year-old encapsulates so many things about her that have remained the same as she approaches 16: her exceptionally high intelligence, her quirky sense of humor, her ability to focus like a laser beam on a task at hand, and her desire to choose her own path rather than follow the crowd.”
Today, Jena is a 10th-grader at KIPP DC and thriving academically – last semester, she earned a 3.6 GPA and ranked number one in her class for college readiness. She recognizes the impact Horton’s Kids has had on her life: “I love Horton’s Kids, and I am glad I am in it!” In particular, she appreciates the support Roy has provided her over the years: “He helped me a lot with my grades, and instead of letting me play games, he [told] me to keep working, and I thank him for that.”
When Jena discovered “K-Pop,” a genre of music popular in South Korea, she became interested in learning Korean. Roy bought her several textbooks to help. “Roy is like a best friend to me, and when I need help, he is there. I also enjoy playing chess with him. He has taught me a lot.”
Roy is equally effusive about Jena: “The one thing that has changed over the past 11 years is Jena’s interactions with her peers. When she was very young, she did not interact much with the other children. Now, as a teenager, she is an acknowledged leader amongst her social peer group. To see that transformation and emotional growth from the 5-year-old I met more than a decade ago has been a joy to watch.”
Jena is eager to begin the process of applying to colleges, including Juilliard in New York City where she hopes to study singing. Eventually, she hopes to move to South Korea and teach English.
No matter where she lands, one thing is certain – she will never forget her experiences with Roy. “My favorite memory with Roy is all of them.”