Coming Out of Her Shell, Jessica Patenaude

By Fadila Chater

Jessica Patinaude

The backpack flew past Robert’s head. He turned around and saw his daughter, Jessica, standing on the bus. Tears streamed down her cheeks. It was the first day of Kindergarten and his timid five-year-old was terrified. 

The backpack flew past Robert’s head. He turned around and saw his daughter, Jessica, standing on the bus. Tears streamed down her cheeks. It was the first day of Kindergarten and his timid five-year-old was terrified. 

He picked up her backpack and jumped onto the bus. He did what any good father would do, sat down beside herand rode the bus all the way to his daughter’s school. That was the first and last time Jessica rode the bus that year. 

“I was a really shy child, like, too the max,” Jessica says, sitting in her office at the Windsor Recreation Centre. Now she’s 20 years old, a community development student at Acadia University and working as a manager and program instructor in the town of Windsor. 

Jessica’s office is tucked away behind the gym at the Windsor Community Centre. Her room is spacious, but cluttered, with a big, L-shaped desk in the middle and a sign that reads “GET INVOLVED, STAY ACTIVE, HAVE FUN.” A damp, white gown and sash are hung on a closet door, air-drying from a surprise dip in a dunk tank earlier that day. 

After hearing Jessica’s story, it was hard for me to believe that shy, little girl grew up to become Miss Community Spirit 2019. But, as I come to learn, getting to that point wasn’t a walk in the park. Jessica struggled with shyness for most of her life. That is, until she became more active in sports and recreation as a teenager. 

“Being in Brooklyn, you have to be a little more imaginative,” she says. “You don’t have a lot of places to go or things to do, so you really have to use the outdoors and play with what you have.” 

That rural, Brooklyn upbringing produced a natural athlete. Jessica joined the school athletics teams and was involved in many sports. Still, her shyness haunted her. That is until a friend suggested she volunteer at a Windsor Recreation preschool soccer program.  

Teaching kids how to play and chatting up parents helped demystify the people Jessica was otherwise too shy to talk to. And being out in the public on a daily basis strengthened her self-confidence and pushed her out of her shell. 

“It’s nice to meet people and learn new things about them,” she says.  

Little by little, Jessica became a more outspoken, confident person. Today, that confidence shows through the work she does at the Windsor Recreation Centre.  

“It’s a lot, but it’s so much fun,” she says. “And I love all the kids, they’re all amazing.” 

After realizing the importance of being involved in community activities in helping Jessica out of her shyness, she decided that she wanted to provide that same opportunity to other youth.  

Jessica first heard about the Happy Community Project when the Windsor Recreation Centre hosted one of their first public meetings. Seeing dozens of people show up to share their stories and ideas inspired Jessica. 

“I thought, wow, I could come up with ideas like this too,” she says. 

She began showing up to more meetings, hearing what members of her community had to say, and gaining confidence to share her big idea, the Youth Project.   

Jessica remembers looking at the small crowd of people in front of her, and how nervous she began to feel. But, she reminded herself that the Happy Community Project is a safe and inclusive space, free of judgement and ridicule. She pushed on and delivered her speech about the Youth Project, which was received with strong support from the group. 

“It was such a great feeling, to know that all those people were behind me, that they heard what I was saying and I wasn’t just up there looking like a mess,” she says. “It was better than I thought it was going to be.” 

So she and a colleague created the Youth Project, a program for young people to get out of their houses and be active in their community in a safe, inclusive space. Through the Youth Project, young people can play sports, attend study sessions, get help with homework and meet new people. But, finding a space that’s big enough for Jessica’s idea is proving to be a huge task. 

“It’s our biggest challenge, always,” Jessica says. “But Barry was always positive and pushing on the space.” 

Being a part of the Happy Community Project couldn’t have come at a better time for Jessica. She had a torn ACL, had just finished one of three knee surgeries and was coming out of a concussion – one that put an end to her sports-playing days. 

“Soccer was my life. I didn’t really have much going for me at that point. I was down in the dumps, not doing much, not going out much,” she says. “And then I found The Happy Community Project, and it really brought my spirits up and I’ve become a lot more confident and open to doing more things.” 

One thing she never thought she would do is compete as Windsor’s leadership candidate at the annual Apple Blossom Festival in the Annapolis Valley. But after some encouragement from her colleagues at Windsor Recreation and the Happy Community Project, Jessica entered the week-long competition in May 2019.  

As part of the competition, the candidates were asked to speak in front of festival goers, which caused her some  anxiety. 

Having only an hour to brainstorm talking points, Jessica knew that if she were to leave the audience with something to think about, it would be the Happy Community Project. 

“I actually forgot a whole paragraph of my speech because I got so confident during the Happy Community Project part, I lost my place.” 

Thinking about the positive impact the Happy Community Project has had in her own life and the lives of the people around her, Jessica was overcome with emotion. 

“People were saying that they really felt my passion once I started talking about the Happy Community Project,” she said. “They said I perked up and they could tell that was my passion.” 

And that is ho Jessica she was recognized with the 2019 Community Spirit Award. 

As Jessica told me her story, I came to realize that confidence, in oneself and one’s community, is key to finding happiness. When you can share that confidence with the people around you, it becomes contagious. And because of the Happy Community Project, Jessica’s spark was relit and grew into a furious fire of confidence that burned so out of control it managed to catch on the people around her. The timid girl that once refused to go to school is merely a shadow of the confident woman who sits in front of me today. 

He picked up her backpack and jumped onto the bus. He did what any good father would do, sat down beside herand rode the bus all the way to his daughter’s school. That was the first and last time Jessica rode the bus that year. 

“I was a really shy child, like, too the max,” Jessica says, sitting in her office at the Windsor Recreation Centre. Now she’s 20 years old, a community development student at Acadia University and working as a manager and program instructor in the town of Windsor. 

Jessica’s office is tucked away behind the gym at the Windsor Community Centre. Her room is spacious, but cluttered, with a big, L-shaped desk in the middle and a sign that reads “GET INVOLVED, STAY ACTIVE, HAVE FUN.” A damp, white gown and sash are hung on a closet door, air-drying from a surprise dip in a dunk tank earlier that day. 

After hearing Jessica’s story, it was hard for me to believe that shy, little girl grew up to become Miss Community Spirit 2019. But, as I come to learn, getting to that point wasn’t a walk in the park. Jessica struggled with shyness for most of her life. That is, until she became more active in sports and recreation as a teenager. 

“Being in Brooklyn, you have to be a little more imaginative,” she says. “You don’t have a lot of places to go or things to do, so you really have to use the outdoors and play with what you have.” 

That rural, Brooklyn upbringing produced a natural athlete. Jessica joined the school athletics teams and was involved in many sports. Still, her shyness haunted her. That is until a friend suggested she volunteer at a Windsor Recreation preschool soccer program.  

Teaching kids how to play and chatting up parents helped demystify the people Jessica was otherwise too shy to talk to. And being out in the public on a daily basis strengthened her self-confidence and pushed her out of her shell. 

“It’s nice to meet people and learn new things about them,” she says.  

Little by little, Jessica became a more outspoken, confident person. Today, that confidence shows through the work she does at the Windsor Recreation Centre.  

“It’s a lot, but it’s so much fun,” she says. “And I love all the kids, they’re all amazing.” 

After realizing the importance of being involved in community activities in helping Jessica out of her shyness, she decided that she wanted to provide that same opportunity to other youth.  

Jessica first heard about the Happy Community Project when the Windsor Recreation Centre hosted one of their first public meetings. Seeing dozens of people show up to share their stories and ideas inspired Jessica. 

“I thought, wow, I could come up with ideas like this too,” she says. 

She began showing up to more meetings, hearing what members of her community had to say, and gaining confidence to share her big idea, the Youth Project.   

Jessica remembers looking at the small crowd of people in front of her, and how nervous she began to feel. But, she reminded herself that the Happy Community Project is a safe and inclusive space, free of judgement and ridicule. She pushed on and delivered her speech about the Youth Project, which was received with strong support from the group. 

“It was such a great feeling, to know that all those people were behind me, that they heard what I was saying and I wasn’t just up there looking like a mess,” she says. “It was better than I thought it was going to be.” 

So she and a colleague created the Youth Project, a program for young people to get out of their houses and be active in their community in a safe, inclusive space. Through the Youth Project, young people can play sports, attend study sessions, get help with homework and meet new people. But, finding a space that’s big enough for Jessica’s idea is proving to be a huge task. 

“It’s our biggest challenge, always,” Jessica says. “But Barry was always positive and pushing on the space.” 

Being a part of the Happy Community Project couldn’t have come at a better time for Jessica. She had a torn ACL, had just finished one of three knee surgeries and was coming out of a concussion – one that put an end to her sports-playing days. 

“Soccer was my life. I didn’t really have much going for me at that point. I was down in the dumps, not doing much, not going out much,” she says. “And then I found The Happy Community Project, and it really brought my spirits up and I’ve become a lot more confident and open to doing more things.” 

One thing she never thought she would do is compete as Windsor’s leadership candidate at the annual Apple Blossom Festival in the Annapolis Valley. But after some encouragement from her colleagues at Windsor Recreation and the Happy Community Project, Jessica entered the week-long competition in May 2019.  

As part of the competition, the candidates were asked to speak in front of festival goers, which caused her some  anxiety. 

Having only an hour to brainstorm talking points, Jessica knew that if she were to leave the audience with something to think about, it would be the Happy Community Project. 

“I actually forgot a whole paragraph of my speech because I got so confident during the Happy Community Project part, I lost my place.” 

Thinking about the positive impact the Happy Community Project has had in her own life and the lives of the people around her, Jessica was overcome with emotion. 

“People were saying that they really felt my passion once I started talking about the Happy Community Project,” she said. “They said I perked up and they could tell that was my passion.” 

And that is ho Jessica she was recognized with the 2019 Community Spirit Award. 

As Jessica told me her story, I came to realize that confidence, in oneself and one’s community, is key to finding happiness. When you can share that confidence with the people around you, it becomes contagious. And because of the Happy Community Project, Jessica’s spark was relit and grew into a furious fire of confidence that burned so out of control it managed to catch on the people around her. The timid girl that once refused to go to school is merely a shadow of the confident woman who sits in front of me today. 

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