The Jonas Wagner “Viva la Vida” Memorial Scholarship was established by representatives of the Eden Prairie DECA, in conjunction with Bill and Nancy Wagner, parents of Jonas Wagner, along with a significant anonymous contribution from an Eden Prairie resident.
The student scholarship was established to honor Eden Prairie High School student Jonas Wagner’s life and to help others ease the pain that Jonas couldn’t escape, the hopelessness that led to his death by suicide in June 2021.
Teen suicide is the second-leading cause of death for teenagers in the U.S. ages 15 to 24, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, contributing around 21.5% of deaths in this age group. More than half of students in grades 9 to 12 reported that they had seriously considered attempting suicide in a 2019 survey.
According to his friends and family, Jonas Wagner loved “living the life.” He loved sports, music and water activities. He had a goofy sense of humor and was affectionate with family and friends. He was intelligent, responsible, playful, confident, creative and willing to try new things. He loved his job sharpening skates, listening to 80s classic rock music, Star Wars Legos, snowmobiling, hunting, fishing and watching action shows with the volume up too high. He brought laughter and joy to a lot of people.
In speaking with Lydia Gschwendtner, DECA President, about DECA’s contribution to this scholarship, she said, “This past year, Eden Prairie DECA hosted their annual Powderpuff Game on October 16, 2021, and our team chose to raise funds for mental health awareness and suicide prevention. Our goal was to not only raise money but also to bring our community together to talk about something so many of us face in our daily lives. We thought this past year had finally sparked genuine conversations surrounding mental health and we wanted to piggyback off that to inspire students at our school to advocate and be involved in change. When we returned to school in the fall, we saw more people advocating for mental health. As part of the volleyball community, fellow DECA participants Ethan Kruse, Grant Daylor, Preeyal Parekh, William Morris and I found more connection with the cause and had been touched by the impact Jonas had on everyone else in this community, which further inspired us to make this year’s annual Powderpuff Game memorable and inspirational. With the specific connection to our community, we thought it would be a great way bring awareness to this cause. It was important to us to create community while also using the legacy of Jonas to inspire our classmates even more.”
According to Nancy Wagner, Jonas’ Mom, who has done extensive research and writings on mental health struggles, “Many teens who attempt or die by suicide have a mental health condition. As a result, they have trouble coping with the stress of being a teen, such as dealing with rejection, failure, breakups, school difficulties, family turmoil, personal loss, sexual orientation confusion, physical and sexual abuse, or being the victim of bullying. And yet death by suicide is preventable. Everyone has a role to play in suicide prevention by building supportive communities and reaching out to help others in crisis. By working together, we can all help save lives.”
FEPS is proud to work with the DECA students and Jonas Wagner’s Family to bring the benefits of this scholarship to Eden Prairie High School Seniors who are pursuing post-secondary education in a career to help increase mental health awareness and suicide prevention; and/or have participated in band; and/or been affected in some way by mental health challenges or suicide; and/or demonstrated a track record of care, concern and support of others struggling to overcome the hardship of mental illness or suicide ideation.
Two $1,000 scholarship will be awarded to students who meet the criteria this Spring 2022.