Reflecting on past student, Jessica Heinen

Dear Editor,

As a retired secondary educator of USD #442, I have followed my students over the years as they have succeeded at various goals, had health challenges, or have maintained regular lifestyles in regard to occupations, children, and their impact on their communities. Less than two years ago, I was proud to be invited to the swearing of oath by Jessica Heinen, formally from Kelly, when she had been nominated by Governor Laura Kelly to join the Shawnee County District Courts as a judge of juvenile matters. In her short career after graduating from Kansas University, she had served in the offices of Shawnee County District Attorneys, City of Topeka Attorneys, and the Kansas Securities Commission. I have watched her career in law as an attorney and judge and the court cases that she has decided. Saturday’s Topeka Daily Capital Journal’s front page story covered her actions as she will decide the fate of Mickel W. Cherry, 25, who raped and killed five year-old Zoey Felix in Topeka earlier this fall. Zoey was not given a normal life to live as a toddler nor five year-old while living with tumultuous separated parents, a challenging household, and camps for those without normal housing. However, Zoey’s departure from her challenging life in such a horrid manner will hopefully be reconciled by the fair and impartial decisions of Judge Heinen. Judge Heinen gained much of her personality and character from her supportive parents and interactive grandparents, her involvement with educational opportunities at NV Schools, including academic honor awards for classroom work and participation in scholars’ bowl, athletic successes, responsibilities as a teacher’s aide, and citizenship, leadership, and character building from the Kansas Association for Youth (KAYS). Former NV as well as current Nemaha Central students and families can be proud of the education, opportunities, and successes that area youth have had and currently have available to them in USD #115. The resources are available; students like Jessica only have to choose to use them and build the foundation for a sound future and positive impact on their communities and on their own well-beings. Unfortunately, Zoey Felix, like many children, never had that foundation in life.

JoLene Rae Bloom, Seneca

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