As the sound of the hymn “Go Make a Difference” echoed through the Valiants Gym at the conclusion of an all-school Mass to celebrate Catholic Schools Week, Jesyca Durchin Schnepp ’87 received the 2017-2018 Distinguished Alumni Award for making a difference in the world by creating software, games and animated movies for young girls.
An entertainment professional since 1991, she worked for Mattel Media, where she produced many of the successful Barbie Software titles, before founding her own companies: Nena Media and Digital Playspace. Her clients have included Mattel Entertainment, Walt Disney Imagineering and Paramount Digital.
In presenting the Distinguished Alumni Award, SSMO Ministries Corporation President Sister Adele Marie Altenhofen said, “The Distinguished Alumni Award is presented to graduates who excel in their life’s work, demonstrate a high standard of personal integrity, strive for excellence and live a valiant life.”
Jesyca Durchin was four years old when she first attended St. Mary of the Valley School (now Valley Catholic). It was still an all-girls school when she graduated from high school in 1987.
Sister Adele Marie noted, “During her first few years of school, she shared that she hoped to become a Sister of St. Mary of Oregon. She still has fond memories of the Sisters who cared for her and taught her on this campus.”
Sister Adele Marie added, “The influence of those Sisters is one of the reasons she dedicates her work to bringing joy to little girls everywhere.”
In acknowledging the award, Durchin Schnepp said, “I think the most important thing I learned from this school is the power of telling stories. Mrs. (Marty) Karlin was instrumental in that. She always pushed us to read to make the world so much bigger. I still use – every single day – what she told us about how to make things understandable and interesting.”
Jesyca Durchin Schnepp currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son. She hopes to produce a live-action feature film for children in the next two years and dreams of running an entertainment brand company.
She noted, “People always ask me about Barbie and why I’m so attached to Barbie and I think it has a lot to do with growing up here. It’s not just about the girls I went to school with but also the Sisters who taught me. They were such an important part of my understanding of what it means to be a woman – and to be an educated woman – and how lucky I was to have that extraordinary sisterhood.”
She added, “Not everybody gets to do this: come back to your high school and still have it be the amazing place it was when you were younger. I’m so grateful.”
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