HUNTERSVILLE – It's been more than two years since a car accident took the life of 18-year-old Jennifer Cernuto, but her foundation continues working to ensure the Mooresville resident’s memory glows brightly into the future.
On July 1, 2011, Jennifer and her twin sister, Stephanie, were headed north on I-77 when their vehicle hit the guardrail near mile marker 31 and overturned, killing Jennifer. Graduating from SouthLake Christian Academy in May 2011 with honors, Jennifer was prepared to begin fall classes at High Point University.
“Jenny is now in heaven with God in absolute joy and bliss, enjoying her new home.,” father Jeff Cernuto said. “I look forward to the day we are together again with Jenny. And until that day comes, there is a lot of work to do in her honor."
To that end, the family began the Jennifer Rose Cernuto Family Foundation in August 2011 with the mission of "Remembering Jenny, Honoring God, Impacting Many." It awards scholarships to exceptional college-bound women and has already granted five $10,000 scholarships in the past two years, Cernuto said.
SouthLake will retire Jennifer's No. 3 basketball jersey Dec. 6 in its Wilcox Center gym. She was a captain of the girls’ varsity basketball team during her senior year.
Her family foundation will also unveil plans for Jenny's Gym, which will include space for basketball, volleyball, wrestling and athletic youth outreach programs.
"The building will be a glorified representation of how Christ's love is constantly expanding at SouthLake Christian," Cernuto said.
The family’s relationship with SouthLake dates back to when their oldest daughter, Samantha, was just starting school. Cernuto remembers getting a call 20 years ago from a group of parents starting the Christian school. Jeff and Lisa Cernuto realized that’s where they wanted to send their children.
"The SouthLake community played an instrumental part in our spiritual growth, and we would like to assist them with resources to reach, serve and touch more families, just as SouthLake did for our family,” Cernuto said. “Our girls grew up at Southlake, and this school is a part of our family. God has used this school to introduce our daughters, and ultimately Lisa and me, to the Bible and an understanding of what grace, mercy, hope and peace really mean."
Want to go? Jennifer Cernuto's jersey retirement ceremony will begin at 7 p.m. Dec. 6 at SouthLake Christian Academy's Wilcox Center gym, 13820 Hagers Ferry Road, Huntersville. The Jennifer Rose Cernuto Family Foundation will also unveil plans for Jenny's Gym at SouthLake. An alumni and friends hospitality room provided by the foundation and Matt's Chicago Dogs will be open 6-8 p.m.