Below is an email I just sent to a teacher from my middle school. I tracked her down and just sent it today. I feel compelled to share the note since it’s Teacher Appreciation Week. The good teachers often may not know how powerful they really are. I’ve redacted her name for privacy.
Ms. [REDACTED FOR PRIVACY],
I hope you don’t mind me addressing you that way because that’s how I fondly remember you.
I’ve been wanting to reach out to you for years and I hope this message finds you well today.
Funny it’s Teacher Appreciation week….so perhaps this message is fitting and timely to express my appreciation for you.
I don’t know how many hours, days, weeks and months I’ve spent in public schools growing up. I’m sure it’s thousands upon thousands of hours. But out of all of that time in school, there were five minutes that mattered to me the most.
Let me set the scene to one day back in 1993.
Back at Swope Middle School you taught Speech and Debate. From what I recall, this class was my favorite class because students were free to be themselves in such a positive environment. You made it that way. You were such a great teacher.
On this particular day I had a presentation.
Being a student who struggled with grades and essentially saw school as an obstacle, I, for some reason made sure I would do my best on this presentation. I wanted to impress you.
After I spoke before the class and received applause, I sat down and I remember feeling felt pretty good.
But here’s where something extraordinary happened in all of my time in the public school system.
You pulled me aside after class and sat me down near your desk. It was just me and you in the classroom.
You began to cry and then said these words:
“Jeremy, I honestly believe you’re going to make it someday. I really believe that. You’re going to make it.”
At first I felt awkward and sad you were crying and didn’t really understand when you said I would “make it.”
Then I understood you were talking about success in life in general.
As a C student and as kid who felt out of place in school with a dangerous lack of confidence in academics, I can’t express enough to you how much that five minutes impacted my life.
My mother and father worked hard to give me what I wanted growing up and they instilled in me with much confidence as a child.
However, you were the first person outside of my family circle, within the public school system to sincerely express your belief in me.
And since then, you were the only one. You were the only teacher to tell me I had talent and worth.
You were the first teacher to make me feel valued as a student. You saw more than my grades. You saw me for me. It didn’t matter at that moment that I failed English the prior year.
You did something powerful for me.
Anytime I was feeling down about myself, I would think about that five minutes. And I still do think about that brief moment often.
I’m not sure if you remember me or not since you’ve thought hundreds of children, and that’s just fine by me.
I just wanted to say I will always remember you. Always.
Thank you, from the very bottom of that middle school kid’s heart.
P.S. Today, I’m an investigative journalist for the leading television station in Colorado and have won some pretty good awards over the years for my work. I speak in front of thousands of people now. Quite the increase in audience since that day in Speech and Debate! Thanks for your inspiration over the years. All the best for you and your family.
Growing up, I always imagined my ancestors in shiny medieval armor, living in cinematic-like glory as they entered the New World with perfect posture on horseback.
As a boy, I was always told I’m a descendant of the Spanish Conquistadors and thanks to dramatic exaggerations and illustrations in my sixth grade social studies book, I had this portrayal solidified in my consciousness.
I knew I was some form of Hispanic, but that definition was confusing to me and nobody seemed to give me a clear definition of what that meant.
Perhaps American society’s tendency to compartmentalize race and heritage like a TV dinner tray has an influence on my yearning to know more.
During my early adulthood, I consumed LOADS of history books about the Spanish settlement of New Mexico in a quest to find out more about myself.
Of course what was omitted in elementary and high school came to light, raising many personal questions about by heritage.
Add in my father’s lineage and his unknown father, and that has compelled me to get a better picture of who I am and who my grandfather is/was.
Taking the DNA test and the results
Two months ago I sent a vial of my saliva to Ancestry after spending about $100 on a DNA heritage test kit.
I’ve been hoping the results will help connect me to my unknown grandfather and help me have a tangible, visual connection to my somewhat confusing background.
As I opened up my results, I admit I was a bit nervous because the test has been known to fracture old family stories and long-held personal beliefs of heritage.
Results finally popped open in my email this past week and I was somewhat surprised, and honestly relieved because mostly what I have been told has been true.
In summary, the results say the bulk of my lineage is 73% European and traces back to Spain, Scandinavia and the Germany region. Results also say I’m 17% Native American.
The results also place me in a specific genetic community that is tied to the early settlers of New Mexico, which wasn’t surprising.
Here’s are my results showing percentages and two maps from Ancestry.
In Ancestry, I can see other family members have done some genealogy work, connecting my tree to the first Spanish settlers who came into New Mexico back in 1598.
In the DNA results section, Ancestry placed thousands of people who are considered my “4th cousins or closer” in a list that tops with people who are closer to my branch.
From what I can see, the test is quite accurate because it has connected me to known cousins who took the DNA test. The top cousin on my list is a known first cousin to my mother.
But then there are many other cousins who I’m dying to know more about. I can say this test has raised even more questions now about my lineage.
What’s happening now
Since I’ve opened up the results, I’ve been emailing my Ancestry.com cousins in an effort to find my father’s biological family tree.
I’ve been getting a few interesting responses that have raised some hope I may be on the right road in tracking down my grandfather.
As I search for his family tree, let’s just say at this moment I strongly believe, based on a few responses I’m in the right forest.
I hope, once my father takes his DNA test, I’ll be able to whittle down with precision his relatives by comparing his DNA cousins with mine and perhaps, I’ll find the right branch.
The test does reveal an American story that isn’t all unique, however, it is unique on a micro-scale. I am a blend of native peoples and other immigrants from other parts of the world who came to this land for something better.
I find a connection to this country even more, because while my heritage is different from a southerner or someone from the northeast, all of us here in the U.S. share this land.
We are all in the same orchard of many different trees.
I debated with myself about posting this story and the raw video (see the bottom of this post) because, admittedly, I act a bit douchey in the footage and this incident happened nearly a year ago.
However, with news the city is installing cameras to monitor crime at Denver parks, I felt compelled to put this incident out there, especially now since this case remains active in the justice system.
I was spat on, police came and they eventually arrested the dude.
The attacker is Simplicio Mendez-Santos, 19, who has been charged with misdemeanor assault and is currently wanted on a warrant.
I’d very much would like to see this guy answer for his crime.
Last June I was walking my dog at Commons Park when I saw a guy place a young woman in a headlock. He began throwing her around inside a brick structure at Commons Park.
There was nobody around seeing this and I felt compelled to stop the attack out of fear things would get far worse.
Video is the best witness, especially in situations when someone may be doing something wrong, so I began to record as I ran towards the direction of the attack.
As you’ll see in the video, Mendez-Santos was on top of the woman choking her as I ran up and started yelling.
The young woman escaped and after some heated words were exchanged, he spat on me.
Police responded and arrested Mendez-Santos. They took my video as evidence and filed a case against him.
Mendez-Santos is currently wanted on the misdemeanor warrant for this assault case because he failed to appear for a court hearing.
What’s happening today:
I ran his background and it turns out this 19 year old already has quite an arrest history.
Records show he was arrested again for misdemeanor assault in Adams County about three months after the choking incident. He was convicted in the Adams County case.
His first arrest dates back to November of 2015 for failing to appear in court on another case.
That brings the total number of arrests on his record to three. He’s only 19.
I’m not sure if the new cameras at Commons Park would have helped in this case because the attack was happening behind a brick wall, however, I do hope cameras will aide law enforcement when necessary.
Warning: Video contains loads of douchey statements made by me and loads of F-bombs.
UPDATE: A spokesperson from Rover.com sent a statement. See below.
This post is an update to Friday’s horrible incident involving a loose dog along Cherry Creek. Connor, a golden retriever, had to be euthanized after he was hit by a car. The unfortunate incident unfolded live on my Facebook page as animal protection officers attempted to retrieve Connor. You can read my reflection on the incident here.
His voice was low.
“He was my best friend. This dog was like my child,” Kraig Braeuning told me. “I’d give a million dollars to get my dog back.”
This wasn’t an easy phone call.
Kraig reached out to me to express Connor was a beloved dog who was never neglected or dismissed. He wants people to know, especially those who saw Connor’s situation, that his dog was deeply cared for and loved.
“It’s an opportunity to learn from,” Kraig said. “I’d give anything to change what happened.”
Kraig sent over photos and videos, like this one and this one to show how much he cared for his dog and “best friend” of six years.
Here’s what happened:
Kraig revealed he hired a dog sitter from Rover.com to take care of Connor on Friday while he was in Vail. He said he’s used the company several times in the past without any problems.
“I would equate this company to something like a babysitter,” Kraig said. “Usually he [Connor] goes with me everywhere I go, but the home I was at in Vail didn’t allow dogs.”
This time it wasn’t Connor’s usual dog sitter from Rover, but a different one from the company, Kraig said.
According to Kraig, the dog sitter came to his home near Washington Park to take Connor on a walk. As the sitter entered the home, he left the front door open.
At some point Connor got spooked and bolted out the front door.
The sitter, according to Kraig, chased after Connor for about a mile before losing track of the dog.
“I couldn’t talk about it for days. I don’t have kids, I don’t have a wife. My dog acted like he won the lottery every day when I came home. He was my best friend,” Kraig said.
Kraig stresses representatives from Rover have been extremely communicative and remorseful about the tragedy and are not skirting responsibility.
I have reached out to Rover.com and I’m waiting for a spokesperson to get back to me.
Here’s a statement from a Rover.com spokesperson:
“As dog lovers, we are devastated about what happened with Connor. Dog safety is always our top priority, and we know that the loss of a dog is the loss of a family member. We understand this is a truly difficult time for Kraig that should be treated with dignity, and we will continue to work privately with him to provide support in this time of need.”
Rover.com is a popular online pet sitting service, kind of like Uber for dog walkers and sitters (it’s a common analogy people use as the online sharing economy expands).
Through Rover’s app, you can pay a nearby dog walker/sitter to come to your house.
Kraig, at first, was a bit reluctant to reveal the name of the dog sitting company, but I felt compelled to get this information from him and put it out there considering this incident was viewed by thousands of people.
Kraig says he doesn’t want to profit off Connor’s death and instead wants any funds to go towards prevention.
He has started a GoFundMe site to solicit donations that would be given to a Golden Retriever rescues in Colorado.
This a reflective post about the live video I shared on Friday. Connor was a loose dog along the Cherry Creek trail who avoided animal protection officers and then ultimately got hit by a car. Connor was euthanized shortly after being hit because of severe spinal injuries.
Over that last few days I’ve dwelled much on Friday’s horrible incident.
I’ve avoided talking about it with people as my consciousness battles with itself through feelings of guilt and regret.
The image of Connor in the middle of the road is painfully hard to forget and I confess I feel responsibility for sharing something so tragic before a mass audience.
Perhaps this public post will help air out the circumstances of this horrible situation and help me, as selfish as this may sound, come to terms with my role in making this so public.
When the sirens screamed past my office window and when I heard there was a dog stuck in the rushing water, my inherent reaction as a reporter was to dash outside and capture the moment.
I was expecting a dramatic rescue as I made my way to the water. I saw the fire department’s rescue crews ready to take action.
As I began my live broadcast, it became quickly clear the audience was captivated by Connor’s situation. Thousands of observers through the feed invested much emotion into the poor animal as things unfolded in real time.
As many of you unfortunately saw in the live video, after Connor fled the field of view and entered Speer Boulevard, I came upon him in the middle of the road after being hit by a car. This was captured in the feed.
Hindsight tells me maybe I should have panned away from the disturbing image or cut the live feed.
I don’t know if what I did and captured was appropriate.
With 1,000+ viewers currently watching and commenting every second, perhaps I became more focused on the needs of the audience to receive a documented ending to what they invested in.
I’m not sure if I handled the situation correctly and to be absolutely honest, I’ve been plagued by the thought that it was quite absurd of me to even begin broadcasting in the first place.
I’ve received a phenomenal amount of feedback about the situation.
Some of it is quite ugly, including this message below from a viewer. I must admit I was defensive in response to this guy as I opened up my inbox as I left the scene.
Three years ago I held a silent funeral before my computer screen.
With a heavy sigh, I navigated through the online confirmation process to forever and permanently delete my blog at http://www.jeremyjojola.com.
I remember holding my finger over the mouse button before that final fatal click wondering if it was a good idea.
Jesus, that was a mistake.
Hundreds of my postings disappeared in a second. A nuclear explosion on the binary level.
Some of those posts garnered great traffic and I fondly remember the thrill of seeing my website referenced in some widely read articles and publications.
Now I’m back as a guilty executioner hoping to find again what I miss the most about writing—freedom and space.
When I hit the delete button in 2014, I thought Facebook and Twitter were ultimately the best places to share my thoughts and experiences. As I succumbed to their expanding universe and power, I believed my own website became an obsolete speck of dust.
I was wrong.
While extremely effective tools at sharing photos and my experiences, I find Facebook and Twitter to be distractions, especially over the last year.
I’d open up the social media apps to post something, but instantly I’d end up getting distracted by the outrageousness in the newsfeeds.
I became addicted to the endless scroll. You know what I’m talking about. That non-stop conveyer belt of sweet information that rewards the pleasure centers of the ever hungry human brain.
Oh look, what’s this political car wreck today? There’s an absurd story I’ve got to read. That guy said that?! What’s trending? Is that fucking giraffe giving birth yet?
I’ve been consuming more than creating more.
And when I write and post something, I feel like I’m trying to squeeze my words on the same notepad millions of others are using at the same time.
Digital cholesterol has clogged my mind, in a way, and I can almost feel it’s hard for me to write again like I used to.
I can’t let that happen. I miss that piece of me.
So here I am again.
This new site, www.jeremy.press, will be my refuge from the distraction of social media – a way for me to get back to what I miss.
I know it may seem absurd to launch a new site while admitting a potential social media addiction, but I believe what we consume online is just as important as our own food diets.
The human mind is inherently hungry and this is my way to run on the track rather than sit in the cafeteria for seconds.