Pay It Forward: Slain Woodrow Wilson grad Jamahri Sydnor remembered for community impact

- A young woman is being celebrated for her achievements and impact on others as her mother works to keep her memory alive despite her grief.

College-bound Jamahri Sydnor was everything a parent could ask for. She loved her family and friends, was a motivated student with a bubbly, infectious and warm personality.

"She was a different kind of kid, a different kind of person, exploding with love, exploding with laughter," says Jamahri's mother, Queen Wallace.

Wallace says you knew when her 17-year-old daughter was in the room.

"She just was always laughing, always dancing, high energy," she says.

"Jammi," as she was known, had just graduated from Wilson High School, where she was captain of the cheer squad, and sang in the choir.  She had a part-time job, was in a dance troupe and found time to volunteer with kids at a local rec center.

"She was light, she was bright," says her mom.

On August 10, just two weeks before leaving for Florida A&M University to study broadcast journalism, Jamahri was shot by a stray bullet while driving through northeast D.C.

Two days later, the unimaginable happened. The promising young woman passed away.

Wallace, who is a veteran police sergeant in the District, still struggles to make sense of it.

"What makes a child pick up a gun and shoot across a busy intersection at 3:30 in the afternoon on a bright sunny Thursday with everybody outside? What makes a child do that?"

The violence left Jamahri's family in deep despair, struggling to somehow find a way to live without her.

"My life has been shattered. I just don't know. Every day I get up and I push myself, and other days I can't," Wallace said. 

She finds comfort in the many photos and videos of a happier time and solace in her room that still the way she left it almost five months ago.

But her family knows Jammi isn't coming home again, and they are now looking to find a memorable way to immortalize their precious child and "pay it forward" through a foundation, a dance program or scholarship.

"She wanted to do well, she really wanted to do well - but she wanted everyone around her to do well as well," she says.

Because of Jamahri's spirit and kindness, FOX 5’s Pay It Forward team and Easterns Automotive Group teamed up to make a very special donation in Jamahri’s honor.

Victor Barranco, owner and artist of AA and Beek, crafted a very special memorial to honor Jamahri’s work with children at the Chevy Chase Community Center in northwest D.C.. Barranco crafted a “Tree of Life” piece using reclaimed wood from a barn that was a juke joint in southern Virginia. The piece was donated to the center and will be displayed prominently at the front entrance.

Program coordinator, Francesca Scott, accepted the work and talked about Jamahri’s contributions to the center’s kids program. She said Jamahri and her sister planned and hosted the center’s Valentine’s Day tea party each year among other activities for children at the center.

Easterns Automotive Group's Joel Bassam announced a $1,500 donation to the center so they could expand the tea party and add other holiday activities in for the children Jamahri worked with. Easterns also donated $1,500 to the Jamahri Sydnor Memorial Fund.

Wallace says the money will be used to establish a scholarship in Jamahri’s name, as well as help provide tutoring and application assistance to college-bound students from the D.C. area.

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