Purpose Project St. Charles County

Finding purpose after pain

After personal losses, St. Charles County teen founded the Purpose Project to help other kids connect and cope with grief

By Brett Auten

At 15-years-old, Jocelyn Williams has dealt with the kind of grief few her age have encountered.

The Fort Zumwalt West student has channeled the loss of two key figures in her life into something positive.

The first blow hit the hardest.

Overnight, Jocelyn’s father passed away at the age of 40 from a sudden heart attack. Jocelyn was always treated like a princess, with tiaras, dresses and finding her footing in her mom’s high heels almost as soon as she could walk. But her parents never loved the idea of pageants, with the idea of them being too focused on beauty and not enough on character. But when Jocelyn came home almost five years ago and found an invitation to open call auditions for National American Miss, she begged to give it a try.

“I had to do some research and found that this pageant and many others are as much – or more – about character development than awarding just a pretty face,” Cyndi Williams, Jocelyn’s mother, said.

Jocelyn auditioned, got the call back to compete, and has worked hard every year for the past four Missouri National American Miss pageants, improving every year in poise, interview skills, public speaking, writing a resume, volunteering to serve her community and seeking community support.  This year, she earned the title of 2019 NAM Missouri Cover Girl in her age group to recognize the level of financial support she generated from her friends, family and local businesses.  

The past two years she has worked harder than ever toward this goal, knowing it will help her promote the work of the Purpose Project.  

The Purpose Project was created after the passing of one of Jocelyn best friends, Jadyn Williams. In the year prior, Jadyn had been in isolation precautions while receiving treatment and was separated from her friends and peers. Jadyn was given the news that she was cancer-free and looked forward to reconnecting with all her friends when suddenly she took a turn for the worst and passed away.  

Jocelyn organized a prayer vigil with over 50 of her classmates in front of the school where everyone prayed for Jadyn’s recovery and strength for her family and all who love her. At Jadyn’s funeral, her friends were heartbroken and the message was how even though her life was cut short, Jadyn had fulfilled a huge purpose, inspiring others with her strength and joy even in the hard times.  

It was there when Williams wished Jadyn knew what a huge impact she had made on everyone at school even while separated from them for so long.

“Jadyn spread so much positivity through her journey,” Jocelyn said. “There are still a whole bunch of students who still wear her t-shirts.”

The Purpose Project was created to help other teens in isolation to feel more connected to their peers through interviews with the teens’ friends and family and creating a book the teen could have to remember.

The Purpose Project has had difficulty taking flight due to privacy laws identifying teens to serve in this way, so Jocelyn has used the Purpose Project as her platform to help support teens and pre-teens with grief. Williams working to get the word out about it.

Williams has leaned heavily on her faith and her family to not only lift her but also motivate her.

“They have been there to encourage and support me through this whole process,” Jocelyn said. “I’m lucky to have such a supportive family.”

The Purpose Project can be found on Instagram at @thepurposeproject.

CUTLINE: Submitted photo Jocelyn Williams stands in front of a Wings on Wheels van. Wings on Wheels is a mobile expressive therapy and music therapy program for individuals, families and groups affected by illness or loss. Williams has been both a client and a volunteer.