I Choose to be Happy

Published October 2008
Updated and republished July 2014

On December 1, 1997 a 14-year-old freshman boy who had been bullied for years walked into the Heath High School lobby in West Paducah, Kentucky, and randomly fired a .22-caliber semi-automatic pistol. Three students were killed. Five were injured.

One of the critically injured girls was 15-year-old sophomore Missy Jenkins, who was left paralyzed from the chest down. But just hours after the shooting, Missy did the unthinkable: she forgave the shooter, accepted her disability and reclaimed her life.

During the next 18-plus years Missy would graduate from college, become a counselor for troubled students, marry her college sweetheart, give birth to two children, speak publicly about her life to tens of thousands of youth and adults, write an award-winning memoir and confront the shooter face to face in prison. She would earn many local and national honors, from “Kentuckian of the Year” to one of Ladies’ Home Journal’s “Most Fascinating Women,” and would appear on “Oprah,” “Good Morning America,” “Dateline,” and “Anderson Cooper 360.”

This is one woman’s story of love, forgiveness, courage and determination that will leave readers of all ages inspired to make the most of each day.


  • Through Missy’s narrative, you’ll learn how this young woman moved from being part of a headline…to being an inspiration. Thank you Missy for showing us the healing qualities of forgiveness…and real grace in the face of adversity.
    Robin Meade
    CNN Headline News anchor and author of N.Y. Times bestseller Morning Sunshine!
  • Missy breaks your heart, puts it back together again, and makes you a believer in forgiveness, faith, and how the strength of one girl can change the world.
    Diane Sawyer
    ABC News

Latest News

June 29, 2016

Missy Jenkins Smith’s book available for 2016 school year!

I Choose to be Happy has been used as a tool in middle and high school classrooms across the country to teach students about kindness, forgiveness, […]
February 3, 2015

2015 calendar filling for Missy!

Missy Jenkins Smith’s speaking calendar for 2015 is filling up, but there is still room for her to speak at your event or for your organization. […]
August 14, 2014

Missy Jenkins Smith walks!!!!

On July 16, 2014, Missy Jenkins Smith shocked and inspired the crowd of 1,000 educators at the annual Kentucky Association of School Administrators conference by walking […]
May 20, 2014

Missy Jenkins Smith launches a new website!

Missy Jenkins Smith has launched a new website at www.missyjenkinssmith.com. Missy will be doing a lot of speaking engagements beginning in mid-summer 2014. Her new website […]
March 21, 2014

Have Missy Jenkins Smith speak at your school, conference or business!

Missy Jenkins Smith is booking speaking engagements nationwide beginning this summer and extending into the 2014-15 school year. Please send me a message through the “Contact” […]