Jonathan Nussbaum is a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, VA. In addition to doing what other high school seniors do, Jonathan has raised nearly $50,000 for cancer research by organizing Northern Virginia’s first youth-only Relay for Life, a fund-raising and cancer awareness event that benefits the American Cancer Society.
Jonathan, whose mother survived a difficult fight with cancer, was an active Relay for Life volunteer for many years, and was consistently a top youth fund-raiser. But when a classmate lost her life to cancer two years ago, Jonathan knew he had to do something more. “I saw in the faces of my friends the same pain that cancer had inflicted upon my family,” said Jonathan. "They were searching for a way to honor her and come to terms with her death.”
Jonathan provided an answer. To produce his own Relay for Life, he recruited a core group of volunteers; enlisted his Boy Scout troop to provide additional support; met with school officials to arrange for parking, security, and the use of school facilities; and planned activities for the day of the event.
In the end, the 300 students who participated in Jonathan’s relay raised an amount almost double anyone’s expectations. In addition, Jonathan created a handbook that the American Cancer Society can distribute to young people across the country who are interested in organizing a Relay for Life team.
“Beyond all the dollars and cents, we raised awareness for cancer advocacy programs and educated our participants about cancer prevention,” said Jonathan, “Most importantly, we honored our cancer survivors, letting them know that they would never be alone in their battle.”