They say the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long… Woojae Leana Kim seems to be the personification of that truism.
Thirteen years doesn’t seem like enough time to accomplish more than the basics: walking, talking, reading and writing and maybe texting. Before there was time to complete her first semester at Marcus High School, she was gone. But somehow, in that short time, Leana’s light illuminated those around her. To ensure that light never fades, her family endowed the Woojae Leana Kim Memorial Scholarship, which LEF awards annually to a senior graduating from MHS with a GPA of 3.5 or higher, in the top 100 students in the class and involved in sports medicine.
“It’s not surprising the scholarship is to be awarded to someone in Sports Medicine,” LISD Counselor Linda Krause said. Krause was on the Care Team that visited the Sports Medicine class after Leana passed. “It was clear those girls were very tight. It was a smaller class. We saw them come into class heartbroken and leave laughing and reminiscing. It was one of the most moving cases of grief counseling, and it felt like we made a difference to the friends who were so saddened by Leana’s death.”
Saddened because they lost someone special.
Terry’s sentiment is echoed by those who taught Leana.
“Leana was in my 5th grade class at Prairie Trail Elementary,” Wendy Cain said. “My memories of her are always happy ones. She consistently had a smile on her face and was always eager to help. She excelled in her schoolwork and even at that young age was determined to always do her best. Leana had high expectations for herself and was always looking for ways to improve her skills. Her curiosity and enthusiasm for learning were contagious. She loved doing group projects and could always be counted on by her groups for having great ideas! Leana was an exceptional student and a joy to have in my 5th grade class.”
This year Leana’s classmates are college freshmen. They’ve grown up and moved on to the next phase of life, but Leana is on their hearts and in their thoughts.
“It has been four years since Leana passed away,” Emily Power pointed out. “I still think about her always.”
Power is a freshman at the North Central Texas College, with plans to transfer to Texas Women’s University, and eventually go to medical school to study oncology. Her bright future doesn’t outshine the memory of her good friend. “She was the first true friend that I had, she was so loving. She was an honest, true person,” Power explained. “After one year had passed I made ‘Leana’s Angels’ shirts in her memory. I can still feel her, and her memory is still SO alive. In the Marcus athletic training room they still have a memory box to remember her. When she got sick my whole world turned upside down. Her passing was my first experience with death and it was hard. I wish she could have moved on and got to go to college because she would have been so successful in life!”
Described as determined to do her best, success was important to Leana, but so was the success of her friends.
“She was my biggest cheerleader,” Terry, who was close friends with Leana, explained. “(She was) the best person to talk to about anything, we could sit and talk for hours. She never had a mean word to say about anyone. Unless that person hurt someone she loved. For my 14th birthday she made me a spiral full of notes and promises for the future that she’ll never get to keep. One time we did one of those mall kiosk photo booths, I carry some of those pictures in my wallet. She always made you feel special, like you were the greatest, funniest person in the room. She was the kind of person I hope I can be like some day. It hurts every time I think about her. Maybe someday it won’t.”
Elisa Moseley created a Facebook page to memorialize Leana.
“She radiated with the most positive energy… always,” Moseley said. “I moved to Flower Mound when I was 10 and knew absolutely no one.” Now Moseley is a freshman at the Univeristy of Mississippi.
“I was extremely scared being a new kid at an elementary school in the middle of the year,” A fear she clearly overcame before heading off to school two states away! “Leana took it upon herself to make me feel welcome,” Moseley said. She was my very first friend. That was who Leana was, a selfless person who wanted the best for everyone. She wanted everyone to feel okay. When Leana passed the whole town felt her go. We all mourned together. Marcus high school made t-shirts that said Leana’s angels on it and had a day where everyone wore purple. I hosted a balloon ceremony at my home in Flower Mound for her and her friends who could come. For a lot of us, this was our first real experience with recognizing death could take someone as young as us. Today, several of us are going to college, got to drive a car and get our driver’s license, go on dates, go to prom, do all these things she never got to do, but because of the friends Leana was survived by, they carry her with themselves wherever they go. She was such a sweet soul. She was the most beautiful soul.”
Dora Thomas-Reinert also taught Leana at Prairie Trail. “I remember Leana to be a happy, outgoing young lady,” she said. “She always had a smile on her face and was always willing to help others. I remember how sad I felt at the time when she died suddenly.” Clearly, that sadness was shared by many. Leana was a light that indeed burned bright; if only that light could have also burned long….
Is there a student or educator whose legacy you would like to guarantee? Scholarships and teacher grants in honor or in memory of teachers and students help ensure the stories of amazing students and teachers are preserved for future generations. Contact LEF Programs Coordinator Sherah Robinson for more information.