Walt Whitman Sophomore Remembered for Treating Everyone as a Friend
Jordana “Jojo” Greenberg, 16, died Monday
Jordana "Jojo" Greenberg
PHOTO COURTESY OF NATIONAL FUNERAL HOME
This story was updated at 7 p.m. Nov. 30 to add suicide resource phone numbers and warning signs of suicide and at 8 p.m. to include details from Greenberg's obituary.
Friends of Jordana “Jojo” Greenberg, a sophomore at Walt Whitman High School who died Monday, gathered Tuesday to remember her shining personality and ability to quickly befriend anyone she met.
Walt Whitman Principal Alan Goodwin announced her death to students at the start of school Tuesday. The news quickly spread to other schools in the area and to others who knew Greenberg.
Greenberg, who was 16, transferred to Whitman this year after her freshman year at the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington. She knew many people, but had an attentive personality that could make anyone she spoke to feel like her best friend, her friends said Tuesday.
“Just everyone in their own way was touched by Jojo,” Olivia Tello, a friend and classmate at Whitman, said. “Everyone at school was just really devastated.”
Lexie Johnson said Greenberg, who was in her math class at Walt Whitman, was always laughing and smiling.
“That sounds corny, but she was happy all the time,” she said. “She was just sweet.”
During lunch on Tuesday, students set up an impromptu memorial for Greenberg on the Capital Crescent Trail bridge over Massachusetts Avenue in Bethesda. Over the course of the day, scores of students passed by, leaving flowers, pausing in reflection or sharing memories of her.
Massachusetts Avenue was closed in the area of the bridge for several hours starting at 8:15 p.m. Monday, according to rescue officials. Montgomery County police would not comment on the circumstances of Greenberg’s death, but Sgt. Rebecca Innocenti, a department spokeswoman, said police investigated a death as a suicide in that area Monday night.
Posters, pictures and candles lined the edge of the bridge Wednesday, while balloons and an array of flowers were displayed along the chain-link fence.
“She was nice to everyone, so everyone is pitching in,” said Caroline Hatcher, a friend and classmate at Whitman.
Whitman offered counseling and other support to students affected by her death.
“Nothing saddens me more than the loss of a child,” Goodwin wrote in an email to parents Tuesday morning. “I will share any information I learn from the family regarding arrangements as they become available. Please keep JoJo and her family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.”
Goodwin’s office forwarded the email to Bethesda Beat, but he was not available for further comment Tuesday or Wednesday.
Derek Turner, a spokesman for Montgomery County Public Schools, said on Wednesday: “Every time a student passes away, it’s tragic. Our thoughts and prayers are with her friends and family and all those who knew her.”
An obituary posted by National Funeral Home said Greenberg enjoyed acting, painting, volleyball, animal rights and protection, training to be a yoga teacher and working at a hair salon. She planned to join the Air Force as a paratrooper and hoped to use Arabic, which was her favorite Whitman class, in her career, the obituary said.
"Her family would like to ask that we all reach out in a loving way every day to those who may be silently suffering, and help raise awareness for teen depression," the obituary says. Her family suggested donations to the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention instead of gifts of flowers.
The Black & White, Whitman’s student newspaper, reported that students were encouraged to wear jeans to school on Wednesday in her memory. Greenberg loved to wear jeans and bell-bottoms and had a quirky style, friends said.
On the Capital Crescent Trail Tuesday, students remembered Greenberg’s sense of humor and unique personality, from how she would come in late to journalism class with an excuse that would make people laugh to posing with a funny face in a yearbook photo.
Few students use a locker at Whitman—students consider them unnecessary or mildly embarrassing—but Greenberg did, a fact her friends said showed she was genuine and didn’t care what others thought.
The locker, which she filled with snacks and gum, is now decorated with letters, cards and posters bearing Greenberg’s name written with hearts and messages of “We love you.”
On social media, friends wrote posts memorializing her, many of them noting her kindness and her smile. Students posted a single heart against a black background as their Snapchat stories.
At school, Greenberg loved volleyball, playing on the junior varsity team, and recently joined the cheerleading squad. Goodwin wrote that she was going to be a leader of the Animal Rights Club next year.
She was serious about her studies, with classmates describing her as smart and taking difficult classes.
Many students were stunned by her death and saw the bridge memorial as a way to make a small gesture in support of a good friend.
Tello, her classmate, said she was new to the school when she met Greenberg in chemistry class; Greenberg immediately “started talking and talking” to her.
Vanessa Mithraratne, a sophomore at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, met Greenberg at a party and said Greenberg was just there when she was “at a place where I needed someone.”
“This is something she would have done for anybody else,” Ryann Cuddy, a friend and classmate from Holy Cross, said.
“Absolutely,” Molly Kueter, also a friend from Holy Cross, said. “She would have been the first one here.”
Whitman will host a vigil for Greenberg at 7 p.m. Thursday in the school parking lot, according to The Black & White.
Editor's note: Montgomery County encourages using the following numbers for free and confidential help with suicide prevention:
- Montgomery County Hotline: 301-738-2255
- Montgomery County Crisis Center: 240-777-4000
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's website, warning signs of suicide include:
- talking about wanting to die
- looking for a way to kill oneself
- talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
- talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- talking about being a burden to others
- increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
- sleeping too little or too much
- withdrawing or feeling isolated
- showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- displaying extreme mood swings
If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide:
- Do not leave the person alone
- Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt
- Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255
- Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional
Signs, flowers and balloons sit along the Capital Crescent Trail bridge as a memorial to Jordana "Jojo" Greenberg. Credit: Joe Zimmermann