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I Choose to be Happy

It was one of the darkest days in America’s history—December 1, 1997. Freshman Michael Carneal walked into the Heath High School lobby in West Paducah, Kentucky, and started shooting, killing three students and injuring five. One of those injured students was 15-year-old Missy Jenkins, who was left paralyzed from the chest down.

But Missy never saw her disability as an end. Just hours after the tragedy, she forgave Carneal and took back her life. In the next decade she would graduate from college, become a counselor for troubled youth, get married, have a baby, and confront Carneal face to face about his actions that tragic day.

She would earn countless local and national honors over the years, from “Kentuckian of the Year” to one of Ladies’ Home Journal’s “Most Fascinating Women.” This is a story of love, forgiveness, courage, and determination—one that will leave people of all ages inspired to make the most of each day and never take life for granted.

What people are saying...

Katherine S. Newman, Forbes Class of 1941 Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs, Princeton University and senior author of Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings.

“Missy Jenkins is more than a survivor. She is living testimony to the fact that a loving family and a supportive community brings forth the best in someone who has been hurt beyond measure. Those inner qualities of resilience, determination, optimism, and empathy flourish in Missy. Her life is full of joy and meaning and she has become a symbol of courage for the thousands of young people who have seen her on television and learned from her example. Rampage school shootings are, thankfully, very rare. But they are devastating to their victims, including the innocent bystanders who cannot forget what they have witnessed. Understandably, we dwell on the horror and the sadness. What this book shows us is that in this rare case, it is possible to do more than go on. For Missy, the shooting has provided a purpose in life: to help young people who are misunderstood, angry and roiling inside, to reach out to them with sympathy in the hopes that they will never feel so isolated as her assailant, Michael Carneal, did so many years ago. This book has a great deal to teach us all .”

Crystal Woodman Miller- Columbine High School shooting survivor- speaker, author of "Marked for Life".

“Missy shares her inspiring story of life after tragedy with candor and vulnerability.  She tells of how she chose hope over despair, and has discovered purpose, strength and the grace to use the atrocity at her high school as a catalyst to becoming a person determined to change the world! Missy, is a woman of great passion and character, who has the ability to inspire all people to live each moment to the fullest, and embrace the life they have been given.  Her pursuit of God and forgiveness will undoubtedly touch your heart so deeply, that you will forever be changed after reading this book! ”

Dan Gross, CEO and Co-Founder of PAX / Real Solutions to Gun Violence.

“This is a story everyone should know. It is about a remarkable young lady overcoming tremendous adversity to find happiness and fulfillment. But it is also about something much more universal in its appeal and its need. It is about hope - how one person, through hard work, an indomitable will and a luminescent spirit, really can change the world. Missy Jenkins inspires me, and I know she will do the same for anyone fortunate to read this book.”

Jim Abbott, former major league pitcher

“ As a 15-year-old who had just been shot and paralyzed, Missy Jenkins showed a maturity well beyond her years by immediately accepting her fate and adapting to life as a paraplegic. Her determination, strength and bravery shine through this book, which offers valuable lessons to people of all ages..”