Our RISEing Star: Jenn Uche ’22


Credit: Adam Richins

Jenn delivering her state-winning Lions Club speech to the audience at the 40th Anniversary Gala, March 2020.

We have many amazing students on our campus. Today, I have the privilege of profiling a dynamic, talented, funny Maverick, one of our very own on the Looking Glass staff: Jenn Uche ‘22. Many of you may know her from her work with SADD, the speech team, Creative Writing Club, the newspaper, or Multicultural Club. These past few months, Jenn has been able to keep another extracurricular activity she has been involved in a secret. That extracurricular program, better known as RISE, recognized Jenn as one of the top finalists out of thousands of high schoolers across the globe. 

Founded by former CEO of Google Eric and Wendy Schmidt, the RISE program helps benefit “brilliant” teenagers, ages fifteen to seventeen, who have a vision for issues facing teens today. The RISE foundation funds these distinguished innovators with significant financial resources for college and beyond to support internships and to fund special projects even beyond college. Jenn appeared in an October 25, 2021 Good Morning America segment where she was among a handful of finalists interviewed. RISE founder Schmidt made the surprise announcement that these finalists were among the winners during this news segment. Jenn is also featured prominently on the RISE website.

Jenn, a high school junior when she applied for RISE, created a website to launch an innovative plan for supporting teen voices while also managing a hefty academic course load, leadership in extracurricular activities, and extra opportunities to improve and showcase her writing talents outside of school. Jenn has participated in many different writing fellowships, including the GrubStreet Teen Creative Writing Fellowship, the Iowa Young Writers Studio, and LUX International Art and Advocacy. Jenn especially loved the GrubStreet Teen Creative Fellowship because she got to interact with other writers and experience exclusive guest speakers, like the director of digital videography for Saturday Night Live. She encourages her fellow Montrosians to explore opportunities outside of school and to let teachers know their interests so they can help connect you to opportunities. 

Jenn and a group of her writer friends send each other different writing and leadership opportunities via the app Discord. Jenn first found out about the RISE program through one of these chats. When Jenn received this opportunity, she was excited about the opportunity to share her work with others.

 Jenn’s love for the book series Land of Stories sparked her initial passion for creative writing and ultimately inspired the topics she explored in her RISE project. Jenn believes that writing can sometimes be so isolating. With the RISE program, she now has the ability to share her brainstorms and research for her project on a broader scale. When in quarantine, Jenn felt that everyone was isolated and lonely. “I was looking for stories and stimulation,” she said. Jenn realized that she wasn’t the only one who shared that experience. One demographic of our community that was most greatly affected by the pandemic was the youth. 

Jenn felt a call to respond to their worries and insecurities. When she surveyed children on the subject of feeling confident enough to change their community, only 6% said they did. To target the issue of youth insecurity, Jenn created a podcast with mystical creatures and stories to help spark their interest and give them the sense of confidence needed to positively impact their communities. These mystical creatures and monsters that Jenn’s podcast is centered around are shy and are discriminated against. The characters in this podcast exhibit the feelings of our youth population in the past and the present. Jenn reflected on the purpose of her podcast: “I want them [the insecure children] to be heroes.” 

Jenn found out about this honor before an audience of millions on Good Morning America. Jenn went about her day without worrying about her 7:00 AM interview with Good Morning America host T.J. Holmes. She knew that she had both a French and AP Government exam to take that day. She got on the show prepared to answer some questions about her project and share it with the world. Unbeknownst to Jenn, RISE founder Eric Schmidt came on the air. Because Eric and his team had postponed releasing the winners, Jenn and her fellow finalists had been anxiously awaiting their results. Eric announced that Jenn and the other four finalists had won the whole competition, and all the finalists went bananas. I don’t think any of them had an expression on their face other than a smile. Jenn reflected on her win: “I didn’t feel like I would become a global winner. I was like: ‘It’s ok, it’s just what I’m doing. It’s not anything great. It’s just what I like to do.’”

Jenn not only is an award-winning finalist but also a wise, empathetic young woman who has two valuable life lessons to share with the Montrose community. Jenn’s lessons are as follows: 

1. Make Priorities. Jenn has had to balance all of her extracurriculars here at school, RISE, home life, and school. Like Jenn, many of us also have to focus on academics and school while also nurturing our passions outside of Montrose. Jenn’s advice is: “Don’t be sad when something doesn’t go according to plan.” I think this mantra will be appearing on a sticker in my locker very soon! 

2. Be passionate about what you want to do. Many of us have certain passions that we want to explore but don’t have the outlet to do so. At Montrose, we have so many new, vibrant clubs that are driven by students who want to include or educate others about their passions. Jenn’s advice is: “Have the passion to want to create a space for other people that you wanted to have. I want to do that for other people. To have that space to be creative, to express themselves.” 

The RISE program honors its winners with scholarships, mentorships, and valuable opportunities to be used for future endeavors. Jenn plans to use the financial benefits that she has received for college and also to write a long-awaited television show targeting the issues she addresses in her podcast. We hear very frequently that we are girls that are called to greatness by God. Jenn truly embodies the real spirit of this message. Leah Birmingham ‘22 said: “Jenn is such an intellectually driven and compassionate person. I am more than honored to be her friend.” I share the same sentiments, Leah! 

As St. Catherine of Siena said: “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.” As Jenn graduates Montrose, I believe that she will set our world on fire with her intellectual ideas, clever wit, and joyful presence. Best of luck, Jenn! Always know that you will have 200+ girls waiting for you to give a LifeCompass speech in the M&M!

Kate Novack ’24, Features Editor