Concert benefits orphaned student
Aaron Jenkins watched from the first row at First Church of Nazarene Thursday night as his alma mater, Grand Junction High School, performed in a choir concert for his benefit.
Jenkins, who is now a sophomore at the University of Colorado at Boulder, lost both of his parents within seven months of each other. In the past year, Jenkins has achieved success despite adversity.
Jenkins grandmother died of cancer in 2008. Soon after his father was diagnosed with cancer. The summer before his senior year in high school, the Jenkins’ received money from a fund to travel to Alaska before his father passed away.
On April 9, 2012, Jenkins’ father passed away, just one day before his birthday and a few weeks before high school graduation.
“Going into college, I had to deal with all of that,” Jenkins said.
In August, Jenkins moved to Boulder with the help of his mother. He called to talk to her every weekend, he said. She came to visit and took Jenkins’ shopping.
Over Thanksgiving vacation, Jenkins returned home to find that his mother seemed to be sick with the flu. He spent the weekend taking care of her.
“The next day she woke up and she was still sick, so I took care of her. Then, I went to church because she asked me to,” Jenkins said.
While he was gone, his oldest sister found his mother on the floor and unresponsive. The paramedics were unable to revive her.
Since then, Jenkins has been trying to move forward, following his mother’s advice.
“I’ve been doing what my mom told me, ‘Be strong and trust in the lord,’” Jenkins said.
This semester he finished with a 3.4 GPA, earned a scholarship and landed a lead role in the opera production of Verdi’s “Falstaff” at CU.
According to the Boulder Daily Camera, Jenkins was the first freshman to land a lead role in a production at the university. He owes his success to his choir teacher at Grand Junction High School, he said.
“She saw things in me that I didn’t. She’s become a large part of my life, now that my parents are gone. She thinks of the things that I can’t think of on my own,” Jenkins said.
Marcia Wieland, Grand Junction High School’s choir director, organized the benefit because of his talent and great personality.
“I came from Detroit when Aaron was a junior. He had never taken lessons or pursued music. He has a real gift and had the potential, but not the means,” Wieland said.
Jenkins began taking private lessons from her and they grew very close. She knew that Jenkins needed support after his parents died.
“He’s in a difficult place. They were poor to begin with, financially there’s no support at all from family, but he’s got exceptional scholarships from CU. Aaron never takes those things people do for us for granted,” Wieland said.
Jenkins is humbled by those who have reached out to help and especially by the benefit. He said he was surprised by the event.
Jenkins is pursuing a double major in vocal performance and music education.
“It’s a distraction for what is going on in my personal life. It’s a different way of presenting emotions. It became a large part of what got me through the semester, and through college,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins also noted that he and his parents shared an interest in music. His mother recognized his talent and they sang together in church.
“She said I had a gift from God and that I should use it,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins will be teaching at Creative Avenues and giving voice lessons for younger students this summer in Grand Junction. The benefit’s donations will help pay for living expenses that scholarships don’t cover. •Donations can be made at the Western Colorado Credit Union to the Aaron T. Jenkins fund.