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Touching Students’ Lives: Remember Jen Sebena

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On December 24th, hundreds of high school students mourned the loss of a friend and confidant.

Wauwatosa Officer Jen Sebena was shot and killed the morning of Christmas Eve outside the Wauwatosa Fire Department. People immediately questioned who the killer was. It turned out to be her husband, Ben Sebena, an honorably discharged Marine, who suffers from severe PTSD.
Many students knew the Sebenas through the Lake Country branch of Elmbrook Church’s youth group—known as Outtasight. Jen and Ben Sebena were both small group leaders. For two years, they volunteered as mentors to students.

2011 graduate Ethan was shocked when he learned Ben caused Jen’s death. Ben had been Ethan’s small group leader for two years.

Ethan says, “The guy’s like a brother to me. He was always there when I needed to talk about life problems. He told me like it was, and gave me advice I’ll carry with me to the day I die. He taught me what it was to be a real man, and the importance of showing love to everybody. He taught me to stand in someone else’s position before I judge them. He was my mentor, and if not for his wisdom, I wouldn’t have made it as far as I have.”

Even after leaving the youth group a year and a half ago to transfer to another Outtasight, the Sebenas continued to stay in close contact with most of the Lake Country students. At the funeral, in a eulogy spoken by Jen’s friend Cathi Adams, Jen was remembered as calling the students in her small group her children.

The impact Jen left on her students was evident when her youth group held a bake sale for the Officer Jennifer Sebena Memorial Fund. They raised over $1,493.

High School senior Laurel says, “People were incredibly generous! They would throw in twenties without taking anything just because they appreciated our cause. I was surprised at how many random people brought in baked goods to support us.”

Jen’s funeral was held at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield on December 29, 2012. Both Jen’s and Ben’s family were in attendance, both supporting each other.

There were over a 1,000 law enforcement officers and 300 police vehicles present. Stuart Briscoe was the main speaker at the service, along with fellow officer Tracy Burbach, sister-in-law Cathy Boerner, and friend Cathi Adams.

Jen’s funeral procession was well received by the town of Brookfield. This was seen when the traffic was at a standstill for the expansiveness of the procession. In addition, people got out of their cars to stand and show respect.

At the burial, at Wisconsin Memorial Park, a 21-gun salute was fired in Jen’s honor, along with the playing of Taps and the folding of the flag.
Senior Maggie says she’d like to follow in Jen’s footsteps and pursue a career in youth ministry. Jen was Maggie’s small group leader her sophomore year of high school. The two went on several dinner dates, Maggie said.

“Jen meant the world to me. She was the one keeping me on the right track. She didn’t need to quote verses from the Bible for me to know her love was true. She was the one that showed me the real light of Christ,” says Ross.

Ben Sebena’s next hearing is scheduled for January 24th at the Milwaukee Courthouse, where he is expected to enter a plea.

Cheston says, “They were some of the best people I’ve ever known.”

The Lake Country Outtasight and the Elmbrook community continue to meet and support each other through this trying time.

Junior Ryan says, “Jen made everybody feel really loved. She’d be the first person to greet you at the door at Outtasight. No one is going to be able to forget that, or her.”

Although no longer with us, Jen’s heart and devotion to others remains in the students’ lives.

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