(Pictured: Me (in the purple pants) and two of my best friends at the top of the Duquesne Incline in Pittsburgh, PA.)
Who am I?
They call me Jenna Lou.
I’m the founder and president of TWLOHA-Canisius College.
I have a cat named Tomato and a penchant for words.
And I’m in my last semester as a psychology major then headed whoknowswhere to get my Masters and license to work as a clinical counselor or social worker.
Though I’ve never received treatment, I’ve known for quite some time now that I struggle with dysthymia - a mild but more prolonged and chronic kind of depression and mild anxiety. I manage to keep myself in check and know when and how to reach out when things get particularly rough for me. However, a few years ago things went downhill and they went downhill fast…
A few friends, a few relatives and a profound muse all passed away within 10 months of each other. I reached my breaking point. June 2010, upon hearing of yet another tragic passing, I locked myself in my room and started planning how to make the pain go away. I had all but lost hope when, on a whim, I texted one of my best friends - my safe home, “I’m not okay.”
Within 15 minutes (which is impressive because I live in the middle of nowhere), he was at my house with arms full of hope. No words quite yet. But a sincere presence. A live and beating heart near the one in my chest that wanted to give up. And that saved me. After conversation and encouragement, he reminded me that I’m here for a reason - that my journey is nowhere near over-that I’m made to love and meant to have my heart broken…probably a million times…so I can better understand the ones I dream of saving.
With that message in my heart, a few weeks later, I attended MOVE Boston. I met incredible people (that I proudly call “forever friends”) with similar stories and passions and became inspired to launch the first TWLOHA UChapter in WNY. Now, I had known about TWLOHA for years and there was some minor movement on campus through the Counseling Center, but that flicker hadn’t become a flame until I met those MOVErs and witnessed the bonds that were created just from sharing our stories. From that point on, I was determined to do what I can to bring the movement to Canisius and create a community centered around hope. And, thanks to a few friends showing support every step of the way, I like to believe we’ve pulled it off! More than that, I genuinely believe we’ve had an impact on our campus community and will continue to do so for years to come.
That being said, it breaks my heart that I’ll be graduating in just a few weeks and leaving this UChapter family we’ve built. But I have faith in anyone who’s passionate about an organization like TWLOHA, so I know the UChapter will be in good hands. Plus, the bonds I have with members here won’t disappear post-grad. Like the MOVErs, they’re “forever friends” and I have no doubt in my mind our stories will happily tangle over the years.