“Yeah, those years of seventh to ninth grade were not the greatest years for Jacob Cohen,” Jacob Cohen says, trying to bring a little levity to a pretty grueling litany.
In seventh grade, Cohen had a terrible cough and breathing problems that kept him in and out of the hospital, and school, for a good six months. It took a few years for him to feel fully healthy again.
In ninth grade, Cohen’s whole life changed. He came home from grocery shopping with his mother one day and found his father dead, felled by a stroke.
His father had been Cohen’s closest confidant, and his death followed closely the death of Cohen’s grandmother, with whom he was also close. But after some months, Cohen said, he made the decision not to pity himself.
“I knew if I were to sit and sulk all day, I wouldn’t be able to enhance myself to get further in life. So I’ve been able to move on because I know that is what my dad would want,” Cohen said.
He threw himself into his schoolwork, and in 11th and 12th grade earned a 4.0 grade-point average. He also immersed himself in journalism, specifically sports writing. This past year, he was editor-in-chief of the Taft Tribune, where he revamped the look of the paper and wrote frequently about school district budget cuts — including cuts to the newspaper.
Cohen will major in journalism at the University of Oregon, but he hopes to eventually go into sports marketing.
Cohen plays on the Taft water polo team and enjoys playing and commenting on all sports. He worked as a college peer counselor, where he introduced students to the guidance counseling office. Some of the students he mentored had not been considering college at all but now will be applying, Cohen said.
He has also worked as a tutor, helping kids with math and other subjects. He’s saved a lot of that money, since he knows paying for college will be a burden for his mom.
Cohen has had to step up in other ways, too — finding rides, because his dad used to take him to school, and making sure to be helpful around the house. But he still refuses to sulk.
“I look back on it now, and all those things made me what I am today,” Cohen said. “It made me a stronger person.”