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Teen Puts Heart and Mind into Achieving Her Dreams

Cheerleading was one of the many activities that helped Jenni gain self-confidence and grow as a person at Boys Town.

​​Slight in stature but strong in character, Jenni Ruiz is a ​survivor.

A 2016 graduate of Boys Town High School, Jenni spent a year and a half as a resident of the Family Home ProgramSM in the Village of Boys Town, Nebraska.

The experience proved to be both healing and inspiring.  

"I really enjoyed Boys Town," Jenni said. "I enjoyed the support I received, the help from teachers and just the motivation people gave me. They inspired me to try my hardest to be someone in this world."

Jenni's appreciation for Boys Town today is a complete reversal from when the South Omaha native first arrived on campus.  

It was a midafternoon when Jenni's mother picked her up from school, presumably, Jenni thought, to take her to a medical appointment. But when the drive ended, Jenni wasn't at the clinic. She was standing outside the Boys Town Admissions Office.

"I wasn't expecting it to happen," Jenni remembered. "I was mad; furious really. I didn't even get to say goodbye to my younger brother and sister."

The trip to Boys Town was the result of months of Jenni sneaking around and skipping school and a souring attitude that had broken the mother-daughter relationship. Jenni and her mother rarely spoke, and it was a tumultuous time.

Not only had Jenni made many bad choices, she also had been robbed of her optimism and innocence: a family acquaintance had sexually assaulted her, further deepening her feelings of isolation and aimlessness.  

While Jenni's shock at suddenly becoming a "Boys Town kid" slowly subsided, her first month on campus wasn't easy.

"I didn't know anyone, and it was awkward to sit in the classroom trying to get caught up on all the assignments the other kids had already done," Jenni recalled.

But continued support and guidance from Family-Teachers® Joey and Heather Butler eventually helped Jenni shed her insecurities.

"We really pushed Jenni to go beyond what she thought she could do," explained Heather. "Building her self-confidence helped Jenni open up and start trusting again." 

With encouragement from the Butlers and the other girls who lived in her Family Home, Jenni got active in campus life. She joined the soccer team and cheer squad, and ran cross country. She buckled down in the classroom, garnering academic awards and becoming a member of the National Honor Society. Her positive attitude and work ethic also earned Jenni Boys Town's "Competing with Character" award, given annually to a student-athlete who exemplifies good character both on and off the playing field.  

Jenni credits her success to all the positive adults and peers who pushed her to try her best and never give up. She says the lessons learned at Boys Town helped her emotionally rebuild her family relationships, too.  

"Now my sister and brother look up to me. I talk to them about staying in school and away from bad influences," she said.

No longer burdened or haunted by the past, Jenni's excited for the future. She was awarded a full-ride, two-year scholarship to a community college, and plans to pursue a criminal justice degree with hopes of joining the FBI.  

"It feels great to know that if you put your heart and mind into something, it can be achieved," Jenni said.​​