COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Olentangy Orange High School student Jeremy Hardjono is a talented performer blessed with a tenor voice some of us baritones wish we had.
His talent was recognized by the Columbus Dispatch who described him as an “outstanding young soloist” for a performance of “Adonai Roi” from Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms.
Now a junior in high school, Hardjono is using his voice to bring awareness and to send a message to those who may need to hear it more than anyone else.
This story begins nearly two years ago, when Hardjono had just started attending Olentangy Liberty.
He was struggling to make the transition from middle school to high school.
That is when he met Jacob Bice in the cafeteria of Olentangy Liberty.
“He just seemed like a really nice person and he was, and he was also one of the most genuine people that I knew,” said Hardjono.
Their friendship grew close and during conversations, the warning signs were there, but Hardjono says he didn’t take them seriously: Bice would talk about suicide, but then play it off as a joke.
Bice committed suicide in February 2018.
It devastated his family, friends, and the Olentangy community, and the pain it caused took a long time for Hardjono to process.
“I felt like I could have stopped it, you know?” said Hardjono.
As a way to remember and memorialize Bice, Hardjono began preparing to shoot a music video cover of Josh Groban’s “The Mystery of Your Gift.” He learned the song and with the help of another longtime friend, Kate Sullenberger, created the music video.
Hardjono praised Sullenberger’s creative eye and edit of the video, citing her choices as giving the message even more depth and meaning.
The video was uploaded to YouTube on Aug. 17 and as of Aug. 20, it had around 1,700 views and hundreds of shares on Facebook.
It starts with an explanation of what you are about to see, but more importantly, why Hardjono is presenting it.
Hardjono has put a lot of thought into the message he is sending. It culminates in the acronym H.E.L.P.S.
- H is for Hello and that we should make it a point to acknowledge people around us.
- E is for Empathy and the need to have it when talking to people about what is bothering them.
- L is for Learn, a push to have teens, as well as adults, take steps to know what to look for when it comes to someone struggling with thoughts of suicide.
- P is for Parents and Professionals and it is there to encourage the teen struggling to reach out to their parents for help, or if they are not comfortable with talking to their parents, to find a trusted adult to share what is bothering them.
- S is for Save, which is something Hardjono is confident would happen more often if people follow the previous steps.
“It’s five simple steps and those five simple steps could really save someone’s life and make a big difference,” said Hardjono.
The supervisor of student well being at Olentangy Local School District, Allisha Berendts, agreed.
”For him to be able to take this situation that happened and be able to turn it into something to move things forward and create change, I think that is exceptional,” said Berendts. “But I do think it also speaks to where kids are at, that they want to be the change in the world. They want to be the reason that things are not the way that they’ve always been.”
And she said that while this message has been sent to teens before, Hardjono may have more success than his adult predecessors.
“If it’s coming from a peer who has also stood beside them and went through that experience well, it means something a little bit different,” said Berendts.
After explaining his message and the acronym, Hardjono and Sullenberger’s music video plays. It is poignant and powerfully imagined shot at different times of the year juxtaposed together with an unchanging Hardjono who wears the same outfit throughout.
At the end of the video, Hardjono returns to wrap things up and reminds the viewer that #1HELPS, which is then reiterated by a number of young people, Sullenberger herself the last to repeat the mantra.
One final reminder of the acronym plays over silence with the #1HELPS splash title fading in and then to black before the video ends. In total, the video runs 8:30 minutes.