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Local teen awarded $5,000 for using his story to advocate for mental health

Posted at 10:39 AM, Mar 01, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-01 11:39:08-05

NOLANVILLE, Texas — Words mean a lot to 17-year-old Donte Jennings. During a mental health crisis in 2021, the Nolanville teen could barely say anything at all.

“The one thing he lost was his ability to speak. He was hospitalized and could only speak numbers,” Donte’s mom Dr. Elizabeth Jennings said.

Donte stayed at a local psychiatric inpatient hospital twice for 21 days.

His family said Donte would get angry, start breaking things, and went through several days without sleeping. Doctors believed Donte had schizoaffective disorder.

“I had all the odds against me, I had to prevail and keep on moving forward,” Donte said.

After being released home to recover, Donte decided to put pen to paper.

“When I wrote these notes down and writing this stuff down, I felt free. I felt like I could express myself even when my mind couldn’t,” Donte said.

Donte decided to use his story to inspire others and co-authored “Don’t Quit” with his mom.

“I wanted to help young youth, and I wanted to help people from the age of 14 to 18 with their mental health,” Donte said.

“His book is me and him kind of conversing, and our journey going through that,” Elizabeth said.

Due to his book and several community service projects, Donte was recognized as a 2024 Prudential Emerging Visionary. Donte will receive $5,000 to help create his book club and mentoring program, EmpowerMe.

“We’re going to use it to make books and jump start our website," Donte said.

Donte hopes his story helps others understand that a dark chapter is not the last chapter. Donte will also have an all-expenses paid three-day trip to a summit in April for his leadership and coaching skills with other winners of Prudential Emerging Visionaries.