Jessica Jacob ’15 had her Creativity, Activity, and Service (CAS) Project all but decided when she heard some unsettling news. A local teenager—a young woman her own age, living just a few cities away—had died by suicide after being bullied online. This news saddened Jessica but did not surprise her. Then in Grade 10, she was no stranger to cyberbullying. She saw for herself how complicated, prevalent and debilitating it was. Hearing the news and seeing its effects (“It was all over the news, but I had friends who knew her, who were badly affected,” she remembers) Jessica decided enough was enough. It was time to take a stand.
Jessica decided to host a Bullying forum for local teens. She went home and floated the idea by her parents, who were equal parts supportive and realistic. Where would she host it? They asked. How would she promote it? Get sponsors? speakers? attendees? They agreed that it was important but encouraged Jessica to consider the breadth of the idea. Jessica was undeterred. As Senior Gryphon Council’s Community Service Gryphon, she had experience planning and hosting events. Plus, she wanted a project that would be meaningful and make a difference.
The Bullying Forum, which she called ‘Speak Out: Youth Against Bullying’ was it.
With the help of her teachers, her parents, and her friends at school, she started answering these questions for herself. Jessica secured a venue (Meadowridge School), a teacher advisor (Ms. Cindy Hops), sponsors, guest speakers, and volunteers. After that, she toured local schools to promote the event, speaking with different student groups and bodies. During its first iteration, the conference welcomed 70 students from neighbouring schools. Jessica was awed by the vulnerability and candour of conference-goers, motivating her to host the conference a second time the following year, helped this time by classmate Ioana Cheptea '15. During its two years, the conference welcomed over 130 students as well as guest speakers from the RCMP and Kids Help Phone.
“When I think back to it, it is probably my proudest accomplishment,” the now 24-year-old medical student reflects. “I think about the people who were impacted by the conference and how it helped bring about change and support.” A few months shy of graduation, Jessica now appreciates how her willingness to serve and help others has inspired her medical career. The conference, she realizes, was only the start. Today, Jessica continues to serve, volunteering in the downtown eastside as well as conducting research in the fields of addictions medicine and health equity.
The conference, she realizes, was only the start. Today, Jessica continues to serve, volunteering in the downtown eastside as well as conducting research in the fields of addictions medicine and health equity.
Planning, promoting, hosting and overseeing a conference is no small feat, especially in Grade 10. Despite its stressors (Jessica still remembers her mom pulling her aside during that first conference, urging her daughter to “breath and have a snack”) it is something that the young alum admits has been well worth it, shaping her own life and improving the lives of others. “If you have a passion—something that is important to you—then just do it,” Jessica urges. “Go for it.”
About Jessica Jacob '15
Jessica Jacob is in her final months at UBC’s Faculty of Medicine and is now applying for residency programs. In between school, research and work, Jessica explores her love of travel. To date, the alum has travelled to 29 countries, including a recent clinical exchange in Croatia, East Africa, India and Europe.