Rena is a full-time preschool teacher, a photographer, and an entrepreneur who happened to be born with a cleft lip and palate along with other craniofacial abnormalities that fall under a craniofacial syndrome. Growing up, Rena never felt different because her friends and family treated her like they would anyone else. However, she did look different, and society noticed. The stares did not bother Rena when she was younger. It was not until she was old enough to realize and the “hello” wave had stopped working. This began to affect her self-esteem. After Rena’s last surgery during college, she decided it was time to speak out and bring a higher awareness and appreciation for physical differences and the experiences that come along with those differences. Through her photography, she put together an exhibition that beautified and normalized the physical anomalies that redefine perfection. The positive response she received was the push she needed to go even further, and that is where Art of Compassion was developed. Rena took her goal of spreading kindness and awareness on the road through workshops and talks, along with friends she met on the journey, and discovered a greater community of children with craniofacial abnormalities.
Jenny graduated from The Ohio State University with a bachelor’s degree in education and went to National Louis University for a master’s degree in teaching. One of Jenny’s biggest goals as a parent and teacher is to instill respect and kindness in students. Jenny saw an opportunity to write a book that helps parents and teachers facilitate conversations about what to do when you encounter someone who looks different. Jenny wanted to partner with Rena to bring kindness to the forefront of education by coauthoring a book. Their excitement led to many great ideas, lots of laughter, and a whole lot of love.