If you passed by the Dean of Students for Village’s High School, Jennifer Thomas’s office, you might not realize you’d passed the office of an accomplished children’s book author. While she spends her days at Village cultivating meaningful relationships with high school students, Jenn uses every opportunity to share her creative spirit.
After joining The Village School staff in 2013 as a P.E. Teacher and Coach, Jenn quickly worked her way up to become the third in command at the High School. Over her tenure at Village, Jenn has coached middle school volleyball, high school basketball, among other sports.
But it wasn’t until 2019 that Jenn was faced with one of her toughest challenges. As a mother of six, she always knew that eventually her children would grow up and leave home to pursue their own dreams. But no one really prepares a family to say goodbye, even if it’s just for a few months at a time.
When it was time for Jenn’s oldest son, K’shon, to leave for college, the whole family was hit by the realization that they were going to miss seeing and interacting with him every day. However, the member of the family that was hit the hardest by the change was his younger brother, Mario, Jr. Even though K’shon is 12 years older than Junior, the two had always had a special bond and were very close. As Jenn watched Junior struggle to understand K’shon leaving, she wished there was a way to help him understand that growing up and leaving home are all a part of life.
That’s how she got the idea for her children’s book, See You in Tomorrow. The story follows the brothers as they prepare to part ways, explaining how even though K’shon may not be there all the time anymore, he’ll always be there for his family and his little brother.
The inspiration to write the book came to Jenn while at new student orientation at Morehouse College with K’shon. During the tour, all of the parents of soon-to-be freshmen attended the parting ceremony. The poem, On Children, inspired Jenn to not only name her book after it, but take time to process and share the feelings that a family experiences when a sibling leaves the home.
“Working with students, I saw how much time we spend preparing seniors to go to college. But no one was spending any time preparing the other members of the family,” Jenn explains. “I wanted to write the book to illustrate how hard it can be for those who are left behind to learn how to cope when their loved ones leave home.”
While developing the story, she had in her mind a vision of how she wanted the illustrations in the book to look and feel. After seeing some of the artwork around Village’s high school hallways, Jenn turned to Village student, Doris Mikulek to help her illustrate the book. Doris, class of 2020, took real-life photos of Jenn’s family and used them to develop a storyboard for the illustrations in the book.
“I knew I wanted to enlist the help of a Village student to bring my vision for the book to life. Doris did an incredible job creating illustrations that perfectly embody the purpose behind the story,” says Jenn.
Before coming to Village, Jenn spent five years working in Residential Life and Student Affairs at Morrisville State College in New York. While there, she was also an Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach and helped with Academic Advising for first generation college students.
“My role at Morrisville State College provided insight into how moving onto college isn’t just a significant milestone for the student. It is a meaningful experience for everyone in the family, from parents moving their children into dorms, to siblings having to say goodbye. This provided the groundwork for writing the book from the perspective of the family rather than the college-bound child,” she explains.
Jenn’s book is available on Amazon and already has a 5-star rating. As for her next project, Jen says that she’s working on an Identity Journal and taking the time to learn about her past and family history.