Jenalynn Weed lived to perform. She’d grown up dancing and singing and acting whenever she could, though dancing and singing were her passions. For every practice and performance, she was always the first one there and the last to leave. College wasn’t a consideration. Her goal was to get into the Sight & Sound Theatre’s conservatory program, and it looked like it would work out. Until after her last audition, she wasn’t accepted.

It was the first time Jenalynn felt a loss of control, and this disappointment had a significant impact. For the first time, she didn’t know what her life would look like and didn’t have a plan. As a result, she developed an eating disorder—“something,” she says, “I could control.”

“I had no idea what to do with my life, since God had said no to the one thing I wanted,” Jenalynn says. “Until that point, I’d kind of treated God like Santa Claus, and was like ‘Hey, I’ve been good; you should give me this thing.’ And he did not. God really broke me down in 2015 and slowly rebuilt me through 2016.”

While attending Passion in January 2017, she heard a message from Christine Caine that shifted her perspective and served as a significant step toward recovery and a new path forward in her life.

The message was on the difference between selfish ambition and Godly ambition. Jenalynn was able to identify that her love for the performing arts had crowded her love for God and that is was time to make a change.

“I was up all night every night that weekend wrestling with these thoughts. At the end of the weekend, I wasn’t happy, and I told God, ‘I don’t want to give you everything, but I will.’”

Just one week after that, she received an email stating that she’d won a scholarship to The King’s College in New York City, and it was during her time there that she discovered a new passion.

“I had some really great professors that semester,” Jenalynn says, “that just turned on my love of learning and made me realize that I’m better at intellectual things than I previously thought.”

Because she never felt good at school growing up, Jenalynn had believed for so long that she couldn’t learn. Growing up, she had always been good at dancing and singing and had found joy in it. So, she invested all her energy, motivation, and ambition there.

“In dance class, I was always in the front row. I was the first one there and the last to leave,” she says.

After being declined the position with Sight & Sound Theatres, she applied to community college, at the urging of her family and friends. Upon beginning in-person classes, she found that she could in fact learn and actually enjoyed it.

After transferring from her community college to The King’s College her junior year, she began to love learning even more and especially learning in New York City.

All the devotion that once went into performing arts went to academics. She says she became the person with the color-coded notes, the one who sat at the front, in the middle row, of all her classes.

“I realized that I was actually the person restraining myself, that I could get good grades,” she said. “It tapped into my wanting to excel. In dance and in singing, I wanted to excel at all times, especially as an enneagram 1. I translated that to academics.”

It became Jenalynn’s passion to grow her mind and build relationships with her professors. She especially loved to wrestle with and explore the question, “Why do people do the things that they do?”

Still today, that question fascinates her and serves as the motivation to eventually continuing her education in sociology and anthropology, with the goal of becoming a professor.

“I realized that I would love to help people love learning, the way that I have grown to love learning,” Jenalynn says. “I had a couple really cool professors that I think of when I think of being a cool professor. I would love to teach about culture, because culture affects everything.”

Because of her love of culture and understanding the stories of people from different backgrounds, her experience of Israel was especially rich.

“I really appreciated the way in Jewish culture, they stop everything and go back to their values and what they think is important—God and family. I appreciate how integral that is to life and culture in Israel.”

She adds: “It was incredible to see both Jewish and Muslim people in Israel set aside their differences and work to the collective good, even though they have different views of what the good is.”

After her first trip to Israel, Jenalynn served as a fellow, campus ambassador, intern, and eventually joined the Passages team full time. She now works as the Associate Director of Campus Relations, a position that allows her continued collaboration within the world of education that she loves.

Tiffany Wang, Associate Director of The Passages Leaders Network, first began working with Jenalynn in 2018.

“Jenalynn is a managerial powerhouse,” Tiffany says. “When I first began working with Jenalynn in her time as an Ambassador, I saw someone who was eager to serve, intent on the details, and who was not afraid to take time on any challenges or obstacles that may come her way…She has been a joy to work with on the team, and it’s been a joy seeing her thrive in doing what she does best—creating meaningful relationships on campuses, within the team, and personally.”

RECENT
STORIES