When the Santa Monica High School community found out that one of its teachers had been diagnosed with breast cancer, it responded with an outpouring of encouragement and financial support.
And when the school’s theater company wrapped up its recent spring performance, that vein of generosity was tapped again.
Samohi Theatre finished its run of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” at the Humanities Center Theatre with an April 17 benefit performance for Jennifer Pust, a popular English teacher at Samohi.
Since being told in October that she had inflammatory breast cancer, Pust has undergone surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. But she recently learned that she’ll need more treatment to fight the disease, a fact that was not lost on the students in Katheryne Barraza’s theater group at Samohi.
“The cast and crew of ‘Spelling Bee’ heard of her challenge and wanted to help by adding a show and donating the proceeds,” said producer Patti Braun, a Samohi PTSA vice president for communication.
The crowdfunding page that Briana Gomez launched on GoFundMe in October has generated nearly $31,000 to help Pust with medical expenses and other costs associated with her diagnosis. More than 380 people have contributed to the fundraising drive over the last six months, including Samohi PTSA president Joan Krenik and Board of Education vice president Ralph Mechur as well as numerous relatives, friends students and parents.
There’s been a recent uptick in contributions on the site.
“Thank you, everyone, for your love and continued support,” Pust wrote last week. I am so thankful to have all of you in my life. Thank you for your generosity and for helping me and my family in this difficult time.”
Pust, who has taught in the Santa Monica-Malibu school district for about 10 years, hoped that surgery would take care of her cancer. But she recently started a treatment regimen that will be more extensive and expensive than originally planned.
Pust will miss more school time than she initially thought, and she’ll likely need additional help with child care for her two sons this summer.
“Ms. Pust has touched many people’s lives,” Gomez wrote. “Ms. Pust is the kind of person who wears her heart on her sleeve and believes that is the best way anyone can live. After receiving this unfortunate news she is handling it positively with much strength.”
Six months ago, the campus rallied to support Pust. Students gave her white sneakers that had been signed by members of the Samohi community. She served as honorary captain at an October football game as the school capped Think Pink Week, a series of events held in conjunction with national Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Pust recently wrote that she’s “incredibly thankful to all of you who keep reminding me that I am making forward progress even when it doesn’t always feel like it.”
To see the crowdfunding page for Pust, visit www.gofundme.com/6468ubkk.