On any given weekday evening, Jena is likely to be found quietly working in the Horton’s Kids computer lab. They joined Horton’s Kids 11 years ago as a 5-year-old and were paired with Roy, who has been their 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 them that have remained the same as they approach 16: their exceptionally high intelligence, their quirky sense of humor, their ability to focus like a laser beam on a task at hand, and their desire to choose their own path rather than follow the crowd.”

Today, Jena is a 10th-grader at KIPP DC and thriving academically – last semester, they earned a 3.6 GPA and ranked number one in their class for college readiness. They recognize the impact Horton’s Kids has had on their life: “I love Horton’s Kids, and I am glad I am in it!” In particular, they appreciate the support Roy has provided them 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, they became interested in learning Korean. Roy bought them 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 their peers. When they were very young, they did not interact much with the other children. Now, as a teenager, they are an acknowledged leader amongst their 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 they hope to study singing. Eventually, they hope to move to South Korea and teach English.

No matter where they land, one thing is certain – they will never forget their experiences with Roy. “My favorite memory with Roy is all of them.”