By Sarah Wilkie ’12
Originally presented during Tuesday Assembly on May 15, 2012.
The Williston experience is unforgettable. Like high school itself, it is youth, it is abandon, it is friendship, and it is possibility. Those who have been fortunate to call Williston home carry its memories long past the corners of this campus. For one of our own, however, it was more—more than any teen, any sister, any child should have to endure.
On September 19, 2011, the Williston class of 2012 lost one of its own, when Jacqueline Desai lost her battle to cancer.
While Jacqui’s time on campus was limited to less than a year, her influence here was vast. She touched many, and her legacy continues.
Jacqui loved boarding school, its independence and challenges alike. At Williston, Jacqui found encouragement and positive support to help her to excel. According to her mother, “She found a student life with friends she adored, academics that fostered her mind, athletics to nurture her spirit and body and visual arts to challenge her.
Due to stage IV osteosarcoma, she had to leave the physical campus of Williston to embark on an aggressive program looking for a cure, which we named, her Journey of Hope. But the spirit of Williston followed her. The Williston community continued for two years to show her signs of encouragement and positive support in so many ways. (Sending cards, posters, 1000 cranes, gift baskets, Williston team signed t-shirts, two of her hospital favorites, the pink Williston blanket & socks, visits from faculty and students, emails, phone calls, texts, wrestling teams shaving their heads in her honor, attending blood drives and so much more.)
In her Journey of Hope, Jacqueline was not given too many medical breaks.” “Her dream”, her mother says, “was always to go back to school where she was so happy and healthy”.
Jacqui was friendly, outgoing, warm, and enthusiastic, and her closest friends may remember her best watching scary movies or simply hanging out together in the dorm.
Jacqui’s footprint, however, extends further than Williston campus and her friends here. During her cancer treatment, which included many blood transfusions, Jacqui became aware of the shortages for blood and platelets. She became an advocate of donations of both, and during her illness, many blood drives were held in her honor. Shortly before Jacqui passed, she also started the Hope is Beautiful fund at the Children’s Hospital in Boston, designed to help adolescent girls undergoing cancer treatment deal with issues surrounding self-confidence, body image, body changes, and beauty tips in the wake of cancer.
According to her mother, Jacqui “really wanted to make a difference…[and] take on the aspect of pediatric cancer that she had a hard time dealing with, something she was interested in and [which] is not addressed in many children and adult hospitals.” And make a difference she did. Even in her last days, Jacqui exhibited the purpose, passion and integrity that we are so proud of at the Williston Northampton School.
So, it is with much love, gratitude, and a heavy heart that we, the class of 2012, dedicate our senior yearbook to our friend, Jacqui Desai. May you rest in peace, forever in our collective memory.
May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
-Bob Dylan “Forever Young”