I Choose to be Happy: A School Shooting Survivor's Triumph over Tragedy
Author of
December 1, 2017, marked the 20th anniversary of the Heath High School shooting in Paducah, Kentucky. Three students were killed and five were injured. It was one of the first mass school shootings in the string of dozens of school shootings in the U.S. the past two decades.
The beacon of hope that day for the city, the nation and the world was Missy Jenkins Smith, who was paralyzed from the chest down. Missy immediately and courageously forgave the 14-year-old boy who shot her, making the conscious decision that his actions were not going to define who she would become. It’s a hope that is shining brighter than ever today.
Following her award-winning memoir I Choose to be Happy in 2008, Missy has published her second book titled, Lessons from a School Shooting Survivor: How to Find the Good in Others and Live a Life of Love and Peace.
Crafted for a teenage audience with classroom activities at the end of each chapter, Missy shares fresh stories about her life since the shooting as they relate to the principles of listening, empathy, forgiveness, laughter, optimism, and kindness. Inspired by the incessant negativity that has blanketed our country the past year, Missy is trying to encourage our youth to create a narrative of their own lives and the lives around them that is based on love and peace.
The book has been endorsed by several educators nationwide, including C. Ed Massey, former National School Boards Association president; Tim Hanner, former Kentucky Superintendent of the Year; Heather Martin, Columbine survivor, high school teacher, and co-founder of The Rebels Project; and Phil Blaylock, 2017 National School Resource Officer of the Year.
Missy is a day treatment counselor in Calloway County Schools. She is married with two children and lives on a farm in Murray, Ky. She has appeared on numerous television programs and in several publications, including Good Morning America, Oprah, Dateline, Montel, Ricki Lake, CNN Tonight, People, Glamour, and Ladies’ Home Journal.

What people are saying…

“Lessons from a School Shooting Survivor is not only inspirational, but it is filled with lessons for life that our youth need for the challenges of today. As an educator, I would use Missy’s story and the lessons that follow each chapter to engage teens in honest discussions and relevant activities to fuel the heart and ignite the mind.”
–Tim Hanner, 2010 Kentucky Superintendent of the Year, founder of NaviGo College and Career Prep Services
“This book touched me in ways that are impossible to describe. As both a school shooting survivor and a high school teacher, I highly recommend it for anyone in education—from administrators to curriculum designers to classroom teachers. We can all learn from Missy’s words how to spread a little more love and empathy.”
–Heather Martin, Columbine High School shooting survivor, teacher, and co-founder of The Rebels Project
“Once again, Missy Jenkins Smith addresses a highly relevant but difficult topic in a meaningful and impactful way. This book, inspired by Missy’s passion for students, will help teachers, administrators, and education professionals as they deal with escalating episodes of violence in America’s schools.”  
–C. Ed Massey, past president of the National School Boards Association, board member for Boone County (Ky.) Schools
“This book is not about being a victim of a school shooting, but about how to live a life of strength, optimism, and kindness. It is not a story of difficulties and struggles, but about trying to improve the world one person at a time. This is a book for everyone who wants to make a real positive difference in the lives of others.”
– Bill Bond, safe schools specialist for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, former principal at Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky
 “This uplifting book shows how Missy has dealt with adversity and how she has managed to stay on a positive track in life, especially through her interactions with both negative and positive people. School-aged kids, along with adults, could definitely learn what it truly means to ‘Be Kind’ to others while using six simple principles in their everyday lives. I cannot wait to share this book and promote it in schools.”
–SRO Phil Blaylock, Morrilton, Arkansas, 2017 National School Resource Officer of the Year, member of the National School Safety Advocacy Council 
 “Missy Jenkins Smith offers simple but profound lessons of empathy and forgiveness and encourages readers to put these lessons into action in their daily lives. A real-life survivor, Missy draws on her innate, positive outlook on life to help her realize personal peace, which we can emulate to help guide us on our own personal paths to peace.”
–Bob Votruba, founder of One Million Acts of Kindness
 “I chaired the Heath High School Memorial Garden committee and I will always remember meeting Missy for the first time. It was just a few months after the school shooting and she attended the ribbon cutting for the garden. She was positive and grateful. I was in awe of her confidence and sense of purpose.  I have followed her all these years and continue to be amazed by her commitment to a beautiful life and to helping others be their best selves. This book made me laugh and cry and helped me realize we all have an opportunity every day to make a positive difference.”
–Susan Guess, cofounder of the Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation
“Missy does a beautiful job communicating the profound, foundational importance of exercising six seemingly simple principles in our everyday life: listening, empathy, forgiveness, laughter, optimism, and kindness. We come to learn that while these six principles might appear simple in theory, it takes true dedication and open-mindedness to embody them in practice. With Missy’s guidance and example, you learn throughout the book how you might meaningfully apply these same principles in your own life. Missy’s refreshing perspective and optimism will inspire you and remind you in the capacity of others to do and be good.
Ashley Cech, gun violence prevention activist and daughter of Yvonne Cech, a librarian who survived the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting
Buy Missy’s Books




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This Week’s Happiness Quote

“Just because you are happy it does not mean that the day is perfect but that you have looked beyond its imperfections."

― Bob Marley


Missy and her co-author, William Croyle, will be happy to accommodate you with interview requests. Please contact Mr. Croyle directly through his e-mail.