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Published on November 14th, 2017 | by Lea Yamashiro

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Mrs. Pust: Forever in our hearts

On Nov. 9, the culminating day of Veterans’ Spirit Week, Samo students clad in Disney gear, Dodger jerseys and pink celebrated one of its own:  Jennifer Pust. Pust died from metastatic breast cancer Sunday October 29.

On Oct. 29, word spread quickly throughout the Samo community that Pust had passed away, after living with Stage IV breast and liver cancer for two years. Monday, Oct. 30,  the typically festive campus was solemn, as makeshift memorials appeared around campus and grieving students and staff gathering in the school library to receive grief counseling and share stories of their experiences with Pust.

“Ms. Pust was the most thoughtful and happiest woman I have ever known,” Sara Cooper (’18) said. “Her positivity lit up the classroom everyday, and she never failed to put a smile on my face. She and her optimistic attitude towards life will be missed by the Samo family.”

In her 11 years at Samo, Pust who taught English, served as O-House Teacher Leader and English Department Chair touched the lives of students and staff alike.

Ms. Pust taught so much more than just grammar and writing.  She taught us to embrace life and everyone in it.  Her compassion and positivity was an inspiration to those around her,” Pust’s close friend and Math Department Chair Marae Cruce said.

The school is doing many things to honor Pust. ASB planned a Veterans/Pust spirit week from Nov. 6 to Nov. 9 that culminated in a “#thinkPust” day, a nod to Pust’s love of the hashtag.  On that Thursday, students wore pink, Dodger gear, Disney Princess clothing and mono-colors to honor many things that she loved.

On Wednesday, Nov. 8, ASB organized a memorial day in Pust’s old classroom, H125, where students were invited to write notes and share stories of her impact on their lives.

“Ms. Pust had the most beautiful outlook of anyone that I have ever met. Her optimism and ability to see the best in everyone was contagious. In a world that throws obstacles, both tiny and seemingly insurmountable, her constant reminder to ‘Make like Elsa, and let it go’  is perhaps the very best message of all,” another close friend of Pust, English teacher Amy Chapman said. “Ms. Pust taught me, her friends and all of her students to find the joy in the everyday elements of life (that and a well placed song lyric makes everything more exciting). My goodness, I miss her.”

Many admired Pust especially for the way she handled her situation, which was by nature rather untraditional. She did not try to hide the status of her illness, but rather exhibited the utmost candor and openness about it. From the beginning of the process, Pust posted Facebook updates on her health.

English teacher Randy Denis admired the grace and candor Pust used to approach her illness.

“She sort of set the standard about how to do that well, in terms of communication, humor and positivity. She nailed it, essentially. She sort of gave us all a model of how to do it, should we unfortunately face it ourselves one day,” Denis said.

Much to her wish and also out of love, the school rallied and rose around Pust throughout her illness. When the news of her illness initially broke in 2015, there was an immediate outpouring of support from all areas of the school. ASB organized a “Think Pink” week in October 2015 with Pust serving as the honorary football team captain at the game versus Lawndale Oct. 16, football players, CIF referees and the crowd participating in the “pink out”.  Throughout her illness, there were many “Think Pink” themed days  that coincided with her chemotherapy treatment days when students and teachers showed their support by wearing pink.

In April of 2016, the Samo theater company hosted a benefit showing of  “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”. All proceeds collected at the show went to Pust.

A GoFundMe page was started by Briana Gomez (’17) to help Pust with the expenses of her surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, and donations did not just spike up in the beginning. Contributions have been rolling in continuously the entire time, many with the same digital messages of admiration and support. The page raised a total of $58,815.

By all accounts, Pust has had a large impact on the Samo community and leaves behind a lasting legacy of kindness, care and strength. In May of 2017, at Senior Awards Night, she was awarded the Konold Principal’s Trophy, an award given each year to the faculty member who “represents all faculty who give their great and best teaching skills to educating Samohi youth.”  In her acceptance speech, she outlined her philosophy of life.

“Be brave, and be vulnerable. If you see someone who needs help, reach out, and let them help you, too,” Pust told the audience of graduating seniors and their parents. “Make a group of friends that you can count on, and be there for them when they need you, even if they don’t know they need you.”

A new scholarship has been created in her honor, named the Jennifer Pust Memorial Scholarship. The student who receives this award will have to be nominated by teachers and then submit an essay describing their passion and how they share this with others, along with a letter of recommendation from a non-relative adult who can vouch for their “love of learning and positive influence on others.”

A celebration of Jennifer Pust’s life will be held on Nov. 18, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. at Samo’s Barnum Hall and like Pust, it will be no ordinary memorial service. She requested specifically the the dress code be “nerd couture,” and the service is also set to be a mix of speaking and sing-alongs, which of course will be to her most beloved Disney tunes.

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