Cancer, Heart Disease Encourage Germanna Student Body President to 'Make a Difference'
Jenny Stone isn’t a typical college student body president.
For one thing, the Germanna Community College (GCC) Student Government Association (SGA) leader and Falmouth resident is 40-years-old, and her 21- and 20-year-old sons also attend GCC.
Stone has survived two bouts with cancer. During her second cancer surgery in 2007, she had a cardiac event on the operating table. A major heart attack and quadruple bypass followed a year later, at age 35.
Last month she suffered a minor heart attack. Doctors told her that her heart disease has become a grave concern.
“I’m not allowing this [my heart problems] to stop or slow my life down," Stone said. I decided long ago not to dwell in my illnesses or let them define me,” she said.
Stone plans to take part in an upcoming SGA trip, a winter formal dance and a Fredericksburg Food Bank drive.
“I’m not resigned to dying,” she said. “But I understand it could happen any moment.
“In some ways, it [knowing she could die at any moment] makes me a little less afraid,” Stone said. “I know that tomorrow isn’t promised, so I have to affect today. And that means being willing to get up and do things.”
With that in mind, Stone recently participated in 'Every Day is Community College Day' at the General Assembly in Richmond. "Germanna literally resurrected me," she told Sen. Bryce Reeves. Stone stressed the importance of keeping community college affordable, because education can and does turn lives around.
She also told Reeves college financial aid is necessary, even for many middle class families.
Stone ran Stone Soup Catering at Little Washington in Rappahannock County until health problems forced her to stop.
"I was really angry at my body," she said. "I was going 90 miles-an-hour and I really wanted to make my catering business work. Catering was something I was good at and I loved it,” she said.
Instead, she found herself at Germanna.
“This school has been a revelation,” Stone said. “I am so looking forward to my bachelor’s and master’s work."
Stone is studying psychology and plans to get her associate’s degree at Germanna, then transfer to the University of Mary Washington for her bachelor’s and possibly Marymount University for graduate work. She wants to work in family counseling and help law enforcement officers deal with stress.
“I had not been in school in 20 years,” she said. “I was as terrified as an 18-year-old coming out of high school. I felt behind the times and old. "
But that feeling didn’t last long. The fact that she’s been elected SGA president is evidence that she’s accepted by other students, and she says GCC’s faculty has been “inspirational,” particularly psychology Prof. Evan Gorelick.
She said she hopes her psychology studies lead to work helping police officers who are under stress, as well as family counseling.
“When you get to the point that your next minute may be your last, you think carefully about what you want to spend time on,” she said.
“I want to see my sons finish college … I want them to go on to feel they are a part of a community greater and larger than themselves.” She said accepting her own mortality led to her focusing on helping others.
She's worked with the student government at Germanna to help victims of Hurricane Sandy.
“To have an impact, you can’t just do it as one person, you do it as a community, although my husband tells me one person starts things,” she said. “It starts at home. It starts here at Germanna. It starts showing students what community means … That’s important.”