Jeremy Richman was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado and earned his undergraduate degree and PhD in Tucson, Arizona. That’s where he and Jennifer met under the most romantic setting: a class called, Recombinant DNA Methods and Techniques.
Jeremy and Jennifer are scientists. Early on, his research focused on Alzheimer’s, and hers focused on cancer.
As their relationship developed they evolved from classmates, to friends, to partners, to parents. By the time their daughter Avielle was born in 2006, they were living and working in San Diego, and before Avielle was old enough to start school, Jeremy and Jennifer were given an opportunity to embark on some exciting research on the east coast.
The family settled in to their new home in Newtown, Connecticut, and Avielle was enrolled at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
On December 14, 2012 Avielle was murdered in her first grade classroom with 19 of her classmates and six of her teachers and administrators.
This is the part when many (if not most) of us will start to cry, or look away, or close our eyes, or say (aloud or in our heads), “I can’t imagine.”
But, as scientists (and more importantly, as Avielle’s parents), Jeremy and Jennifer believe that we all can and should imagine.
Three days after Avielle’s murder, Jeremy and Jennifer decided to use their unique scientific backgrounds, and what they knew would be everlasting grief to fuel a positive change.
They started the Avielle Foundation to work to prevent violence and build compassion through research and community education.
As Jeremy says:
It’s not the size of our brains that make us human – it’s the mass of our neocortex.
The neocortex is the part of our brain that allows us to engage in conscious thought, understand where we are, and use our senses. It’s what makes it possible for us to converse and connect – to dream and imagine.
Humans are unique in that our neocortex makes up 76% of our brain matter.
Jeremy, Jennifer, and The Avielle Foundation strive through research and science to better understand the conditions that individuals and communities can create to foster better brain health and grow our capacities for empathy and compassion.
They believe that by allowing ourselves to even momentarily imagine bearing the unbearable, that we have a stronger sense of compassion and are compelled to take action to make the world better. On the lighter side of the imagination tunnel – it is this imagination that sets us free to make tomorrow brighter, more colorful, and better than today – this is where optimism comes from.
The Avielle Foundation is one of many organizations that The Life is Good Kids Foundation has partnered with to help Newtown, Connecticut continue to heal. More importantly we are working with The Avielle Foundation to prevent violence and build compassion and optimism on a national scale. You can learn about their work and their on-going heroic acts of optimism on their Website: http://www.aviellefoundation.org.
We are grateful to Jeremy, Jennifer, and The Avielle Foundation for allowing The LiGKF to share their story as our very first Everyday Hero feature.
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