Henderson’s Jenna Maratea makes the most of every second

By Andy Edwards


Photo courtesy of Natalie Caruso


School: West Chester Henderson
Athlete: Whitney Hand-Jones
Food: Chipotle
Movie: “Taken 2”
TV show: Prison Break
Music: Country

WEST CHESTER – Jenna Maratea’s life leaves no room for waste.

And the way she sees it, there’s no bigger waste than a skill that goes unused or a passion that goes unrealized.

“I’ve been blessed with a lot,” said Maratea, a junior who plays on the soccer, basketball, and track and field teams at West Chester Henderson. “I have a lot of interests and opportunities, and I want to make sure I take advantage of them. I feel like it’s part of my responsibility.”

If Maratea keeps a datebook, it would certainly show she has no room for wasted time – or time to waste, for that matter.

 FA_Jenna_Maratea_2A girl of many faces (or perhaps uniforms would be more accurate), Maratea represents the Warriors on a playing field of some sort from the first practice of the fall to the last contest of the spring. In the fall, she’s the starting goalkeeper for a soccer squad that has reached the district playoffs twice in her three years. Come winter, she’s lacing up her sneakers as a shooting guard on the basketball team. And sure enough, when spring begins anew there’s Maratea, competing in the 800 and 1,600 meters for track and field.

Indeed, the idea of not playing a sport is difficult for Maratea to wrap her head around.

“I would probably imagine that as…boring,” she said. “I am very busy and always have a lot of work to do, but I feel like I’d be really bored and I definitely wouldn’t have a lot of the friends and relationships with teachers and coaches that I do.”

With so much devoted to athletic endeavors, it’s a wonder that Maratea has time for anything else. Indeed, her activity calls into question whether there are really only 24 hours in a day. For as busy as Maratea is on the field, court, and track, she’s just as active outside of sports.

Since her freshman year, Maratea has been heavily involved with the Andrew L. Hicks, Jr. Foundation, created in 2010 in honor of a Henderson student who tragically fell to his death while on a family vacation in California. The organization “aims to honor Andrew’s life and demonstrate the love of Christ to the youth of Chester by identifying and fulfilling service opportunities with the involvement of Henderson High School students and the West Chester community.”

With the foundation’s support, Henderson established a mentoring program called Warrior Guides, which pairs one of 100 active high school members with a ‘Brave,’ an elementary school student in Chester. Each Warrior Guide is expected to attend one organized, community event per month with their mentee – football games, roller skating, and other fun outings – as well as initiate five ‘personal touches,’  private communications that help strengthen the relationship.

Matched with a student named Giniah this year, Maratea helps provide friendship, encouragement, and guidance. The two hit the lanes for a bowling outing last weekend and keep in touch throughout the year. As much as Giniah and the Braves before her benefit from Maratea’s involvement in their lives, Maratea says the program is equally rewarding for her.

“Mentoring them has helped my leadership,” Maratea explained. “I wasn’t always the most outgoing person, but by getting involved with these programs I’ve been able to talk more and grow into more of a leader, trying to be a positive influence.”

Recently, she received a text from a previous Brave, asking how her year was going.

“It’s really neat,” Maratea said, “to have a relationship like that.”

Last year, as part of Warrior Guides, Maratea served as a cabin leader at Downingtown’s Camp Paradise, which provides an overnight, outdoor camping experience to over 140 Chester youth. At her church, she has spent the past three years participating in a similar program that takes inner-city children to Camp at the Old Mill in Honeybrook for a day of fishing, archery, sports, arts and crafts, and many other new experiences.

“Part of growing up as a teenager is learning how to be a decent human, a good contributing member of our society,” said Henderson girls basketball coach Greta Neff. “Jenna’s community activity is refreshing, and it’s neat to see a high school student who gets the big picture. Whether it is athletics or family that has taught this, it is so neat to see Jenna really buying into helping others.”

An avid guitar player since seventh grade, Maratea plays at these camps and helps lead worship for her high school ministry.

“I’ve been given a lot,” Maratea said, “so whenever I get something good I like to share it with others. When I eat something good, I tell people, ‘you should try this.’ I feel like that’s how it is with community service. I know I live in a great area and go to a great school, so I want to give back to people who might not get those opportunities just because of their lot in life.

FA_Jenna_Maratea_4“It makes me feel good, and it’s really rewarding at the end of these camps. The kids are crying and you get to build great relationships.”

A member of the National Honor Society and Latin Honor Society, Maratea is also a class officer for the Class of 2016’s student senate, which is involved in picking prom locations and fundraising as well as organizing various events for the junior class.

 “Jenna comes from a great family who fully supports her,” said Henderson Athletic Director Ken McCormick, who coached Maratea’s father, Mike, in football at West Chester East. “She is a natural-born leader with a quiet confidence that inspires confidence in others. She is extremely respectful and truly represents Henderson’s ideal student.  Jenna carries an excellent GPA while balancing athletics workout sessions and the workload of her college-preparatory classes.  Moreover, this balancing act is done with the maturity and acumen of an adult. What a wonderful student!”

A skilled goalie who was named honorable mention All Ches-Mont as a freshman and helped guide Henderson to a district playoff berth this season, Maratea says her first love is basketball. She averages 5.6 points per game on a Warriors squad that has shown steady improvement under first-year head coach Neff, who didn’t take long to realize she had a special student-athlete on her hands.

“It was immediately easy to see that Jenna truly is a great kid,” Neff said. “She continually challenges herself, her teammates, and her coaching staff to keep working for the success and respect that the Henderson program deserves. The success that we are experiencing this year is due in large part to her leadership.”


Photo courtesy of Natalie Caruso

With Maratea – who was voted captain by her teammates – and Neff at the helm, the Warriors are enjoying a bounce-back season on the heels of last year’s 6-15 campaign.

“We’re doing a lot better than a lot of people expected,” Maratea said. “Coach Neff has helped completely turn around this program. We’ve been hanging around some tough teams that we never stayed with in the past.”

Somehow, with all of her sports, Maratea makes time for community service. And somehow, with all of that extraordinary service, she manages to lead the life of an ordinary high school student.

“You have to learn how to manage your time,” she says. “It’s not like I have a ton of free time, but I do hang out with my friends on weekends. I don’t live under a rock.

“Some nights you’re up really late with work and staying after school, but I enjoy challenging myself. I would rather be challenged than not be busy.”

Of that, there can be no doubt.




FA_Jenna_Maratea_5For more information about these programs:
Andrew L. Hicks, Jr. Foundation
Warrior Guides
Camp Paradise


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