Westmont Magazine She's Positively Optimistic
Political Science Major Perseveres Despite a Life-Threatening Illness
Her smile is contagious. Her mood is infectious. It’s no surprise that she often walks around campus singing.
“I love people. I really enjoy laughing. It’s a play hard, work hard type of thing,” Geriece Jenkins says.
It’s difficult to believe that the junior political science major suffers from a life-threatening disease.
She was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) when she was three months old. The genetic disease causes mucus to build up and clog some of the organs in the body, particularly the lungs and pancreas. Fifty years ago, children with CF were not expected to live past the first grade. Now the median age of survival has climbed to about 37 years, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Geriece has suffered minimal complications from CF and has attacked the disease with her positive attitude.
“My mom always said, ‘You are who you are, and you can do whatever you want to do. You just happen to have CF. If you have to take extra medicine to be able to do whatever you do, that’s fine. Whatever we have to do, we’ll do.’”
The Whittier, Calif., native says she was never part of a CF support group and went to Christian camps rather than camps for CF kids.
“It shaped my attitude toward CF,” she says. “It’s there, but it’s not going to limit what I do.”
Nothing on campus has slowed Geriece down. She’s been a resident assistant for two years and took over directing the gospel choir when it looked like the group was dissolving. She has won academic merit scholarships and diversity awards for her work with the choir and for introducing cultural awareness programs to the residence halls.
“She’s simply a remarkable person,” says Elena Yee, director of intercultural programs. “She is hard working, resilient and has a positive attitude. Students really appreciate her for her wisdom and sense of humor. She has dealt with challenging issues in her life yet has persevered.”
Geriece almost didn’t come to Westmont. Both her parents worked at Biola University, and she was accepted to Stanford University.
“But through a series of events that still don’t make sense to me, God very clearly said, ‘Westmont,’” she says. “I’d be a very different person if I hadn’t come to Westmont. You can’t foresee the things that are going to happen in life. The community here was very necessary for me to continue walking in my faith.”
Geriece hopes to continue her education in medical school or to pursue a master’s degree in public health. After college, she would like to develop health care systems in developing countries.
“I wanted to be a doctor for a long time because I was always in hospitals and dealing with doctors,” she says. “Now I’m not sure. It started the passion but I’m not sure I want to be a doctor.
“I’m just going to do something and see where God takes it. He is very faithful to redirect and stop. ‘No wait. You got ahead of me. Come back.’ I’m not really worried about it.”