We’ve all seen the bumps. The bumps on the bellies of the juniors who waddle down the hallways with books and baggy sweatshirts. The bumps that make us do a double take– where did that come from?– but then magically disappear the next day. Most students at Andover High School quickly realize that these huge bellies are just pregnancy suits, worn for a day as part of an annual health project, and they dismiss the sight after a few seconds. Jenny Jung, however, wore the suit herself, and she realized that some people face these judging eyes all the time.
“As I was walking through the hallways, I felt really self conscious. Random people kept poking it, and every time they did, I felt like throwing up,” she recounts. As she put herself in the shoes of teen moms, she came to the realization that they face this scrutiny and prejudice on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, as Jung considered the numerous challenges of teen mothers, she received the news that she had won a writing contest which she had entered in back in November. As first place victor of the Sierra Nevada High School Writing Competition, she received $500 for her personal essay, “A Reality on a Friday Night”.
That’s when the pieces came together. Rather than spend the money on herself, Jung decided to combine her love for literature with her recently found empathy for teen mothers and use it to promote awareness for teen pregnancy. She put the money towards the creation of a literary journal, titled Synonyms for Empathy.
Synonyms for Empathy is a compilation of poems, short stories, personal narratives, and ten minute plays from both teenagers and adults. Jung created a Facebook page to spread awareness about teen pregnancy as well as to encourage people to submit to the magazine. She writes, “I want the depths of your humanity. I want the pieces your soul has embedded itself into. I want the prose that moves me, that yanks inside of me an emotion that’s universal, transcendental. I want your empathy.”
The deadline for submissions was March 1. Jung plans to select approximately 35 pieces to compose the literary journal, which she will then self-publish using lulu.com. She wishes to have copies available to sell by early May. Her goal is to raise $2000, and all of the profits will be donated to the Massachusetts Alliance for Teen Pregnancy. By encouraging students at Andover High to buy copies, Jung hopes to provoke empathy in others for teen mothers.
Perhaps the most important question is raised by Jung on her Facebook page: Why care? To that, she answers, “Maybe it’s just something that you, as a human being, want to do. Maybe you’re just empathetic.”
By Caroline Murtagh