TARRYTOWN, N.Y. -- Jenna Fanelli was an outstanding student, avid athlete and peer leader during her formative years in the Pocantico Hills School District. All those attributes came rushing to the forefront when she jumped into the Hudson River last month to help save a drowning child.
Fanelli went on to graduate Pleasantville High School and Keene State College and is now working as a recreational therapist at Andrus School in Yonkers. She was honored for her heroism at the Pocantico Hills Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 23.
On Monday, Sept. 8, a neighborhood group was enjoying a cookout at the JFK Marina in Yonkers when a six-year-old autistic boy, Stephen Jones, went missing. It was discovered he had fallen in the river. Fanelli assisted in the rescue in which 40-year-old Boyce "Scoop" Coleman, another rescuer, eventually drowned.
School Superintendent Valencia Douglas and individual board members rose to honor the 23-year-old Fanelli, who sat in the audience with her family. Teachers recalled Fanelli's leadership and courage in getting other students involved in her passion for learning.
"Your Pocantico Hills family is so very proud of you Jennna," Douglas said as she presented Fanelli with a proclamation by the State Assembly and State Assemblyman Thomas J. Abinanti (D-Greenburgh/Mt. Pleasant).
"You represent everything we believe in here as we raise our students to accept challenges. In the course of your very young life you were asked to accept a very, very important challenge. Without anyone mandating, it wasn't in your (professional) contract, you did it because of who you are, the kind of person your parents raised and we helped to raise."
Fanelli, a certified lifeguard, said she is a bit surprised at how people have responded to what she thought was a natural response to an urgent need.
"Of course I was a little scared at the time and after it as over," Fanelli said. "But it is something I was prepared to do and something I was meant to do. I'm just glad I could help and proud to be here with everyone at Pocantico Hills where I am part of the family."
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