573 Magazine Nov 2016 - Page 13

My name is Jennifer Gast.  I met my husband Josh in high school.  We have three beautiful children.  Austin, Caleb, and Laurel all attend St. Vincent De Paul in Cape Girardeau.  You will also find me there, helping in art class or  with the room parties.  My weeks consist of baseball practice, basketball practice, gymnastics and ballet.  On weekends I love watching my boys play ball and just spending time with my family. I was born and raised here in the Heartland.  I have lived much of my life in Cape Girardeau. After graduating high school I attended both Southeast Missouri State University and Ole Miss where I graduated with a degree in forensic communication and English with an emphasis in compositional writing.  I attended law school at St. Louis University but ultimately decided on getting my graduate degree in communication with an emphasis on interpersonal communication from Southwest Missouri State University.  I taught public speaking and interpersonal communication courses at both Southwest and Southeast Missouri State University.   My real passion (outside my family) is running Student Santas, a non-profit organization.  To date, Student Santas has helped nearly 20,000 children and their families throughout the state of Missouri. We provide clothes, shoes, bedding, food, and toys to families who are struggling.  Last year Student Santas fed 300 people on Christmas Day. As a mother I’ve always loved watching my children tear into their presents on Christmas morning.  A few years ago, one Christmas morning, I came to a sad realization that some local children will rush into their living rooms on Christmas morning to find nothing.  As a mother this thought haunted me.  I wanted to do something about it but I didn’t know what.