How a Kettering classmate’s suicide changed her friend’s perspective on life

Reese Hornick, author of essay

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Reese Hornick, author of essay

Eighth-grader’s essay stresses importance of being a light for others.

Reese Hornick, an 8th-grader at St. Charles Borromeo School in Kettering, won the 15th annual Dottie Yeck Good Life Award presented by the Washington-Centerville Public Library for her essay, “Being the Light,” about the aftermath of Chanel Nonnenman’s suicide.

Here is her essay:

I felt as if I were waiting forever. As any theater kid would tell you, the period between auditions and casting is an agonizing test of patience. I was particularly anxious about this show because I finally had the chance to get the lead role. My theater friends told me I nailed it, and I thought so too.

During those waiting days, news was bubbling up about a life-threatening virus... The theater ultimately canceled the show, so the cast list was never published. My “big break” was crushed.

A month later, I was still moping. Other in-person activities were canceled as well, and there is only so much virtual you can take. I became very lonely and depressed, and I was feeling incredibly sorry for myself. So much so, I couldn’t even see how much the isolation was affecting other people.

That was until April 19, when I learned that one of my classmates had taken her own life. She was only 12 years old. A star volleyball player, she loved sports as much as I love theater. The opportunity to do what she loved was taken from her too.

I still remember shaking after my mom told me the news. Our class group chat was blowing up with messages, and I was too in shock to respond. I don’t know what else may have led my classmate to end her life, but isolation didn’t help. Suddenly, I felt selfish for getting so fixated on the missed theater opportunity. Deep down I knew there would be more chances. Even in my sadness, I could still see a light that my classmate couldn’t see.

This was when my focus changed completely... When in devastating times like this, if you can’t find the good, you have to BE the good....

My perspective on life has changed dramatically since the pandemic began. I’ve learned that happiness isn’t being in the spotlight; it’s about being a light for others. Young people need hope. While I will always love theater, I now have a desire to pursue a career in psychology. The unexpected events of the past year have given me a new purpose.”