Isabel Pesci, senior at Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha, along with friends Elizabeth Korb, freshman at Concordia University – Wisconsin, and Taylor Newcomer, freshman at Belmont University in Nashville, were recognized as the 2015 recipients of the Philanthropic Youth of Today award given by the Association of Fundraising Professionals of Southeastern Wisconsin.

Isabel Pesci, left, Elizabeth Korb and Taylor Newcomer were recognized as the 2015 recipients of the Philanthropic Youth of Today award given by the Association of Fundraising Professionals of Southeastern Wisconsin as founders of, Think Through Your Life, an organization that raises awareness and prevention of teenage suicide. Pesci is a senior at Catholic Memorial High School, Waukesha. (Submitted photo courtesy Isabel Pesci)They were honored for co-founding Think Through Your Life, an organization that raises awareness and prevention of teenage suicide.

Sharing the same affection for acoustical young pop musicians, the women met on a social media site in 2014 where they struck up a friendship. As their camaraderie grew, they found local teens online suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts who listened to music as a way to cope.  

Listening to the stories of their online friends, the three saw an opportunity to help. They planned a benefit concert to raise awareness of and to prevent teen suicide.  

Their parents were somewhat skeptical that the teens would be able to hire the bands they wanted, but divine intervention prevailed.

Korb, a member of St. Francis Borgia Parish, Cedarburg, also though the task would be a challenge.

“It was difficult, because it was our first time putting together an event, so we really weren’t sure what we were doing, but the experience was incredible the whole way through,” she said.

On Sept. 27, 2014, 400 teens packed the Waukesha Expo Center to hear live music, listen to inspirational speakers and

For information or to donate to Think Through Your Life, visit

spread the word that life is worth living. The concert included Jacob Whitesides, 18, from Tennessee, Dylan Holland, 21, from Ohio and Braiden Wood, 22, from Florida, all singer songwriters who found success on social media.

Between musical sets, speakers addressed the teens on suicide prevention. Sunnie Hirschfield of the Waukesha office of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), parents who lost a child to suicide, and a teen who lost a friend to suicide offered their perspective on this tragedy.

Following the concert, at least 75 people approached Pesci, Korb and Newcomer, some in tears, to express that the event was helpful.

“We thought they were crying because they met Jacob Whitesides,” said Pesci, but they were crying tears of joy that suicide prevention was being addressed.  

Korb said kids she hadn’t talked to in years stopped her in the hall at school to thank her for her work with TTYL.
The women were surprised and amazed at how many lives they were able to touch.

“Often people like to avoid the subject of suicide and depression when it is brought up because it is difficult to talk about. I think TTYL has been able to start the conversation for many and allow them to be more open when talking about their struggles and the struggles of those around them,” said Pesci.

Starting the conversation and becoming a resource were the goals of the organization and event, but there was an added benefit. After the first concert, the organization donated $5,000 to the NAMI for their Question Persuade Refer (QPR) program that helps people battling thoughts of suicide or assists those helping a friend who is struggling.

A second event, using funds raised from the concert, was held Jan. 12, 2015, at Turner Hall, Milwaukee, and again featured Wood and Ryan Beatty. This time, a teen speaker who suffered from depression and had attempted suicide herself shared her experience.

Pesci’s Spanish teacher, Jennifer Denten, nominated the women for the award, recognizing their hard work.

“I was so proud to have the opportunity to nominate Isabel and her team for the award because she is truly already living, what we, at CMH, call, the ‘Memorial Way.’ They see the value of each person’s life and have used their talents to help each person recognize their inherent dignity,” said Denten.

At CMH, students live by the motto, “Caritas in Omnibus” (charity in all things), said Denten, noting that Pesci and her friends have shown they live the motto through their work with TTYL.

“Being a part of Catholic Memorial helped me to understand that service and charity combined with leadership can help people through hard times,” said Pesci, a member of St. Mary’s Visitation Parish, Elm Grove.

Fr. Paul Hartmann, president at CMH, explained how Pesci and her co-founders have illuminated a topic that has a far-reaching impact on all high school students.

“The great work of Isabel and her friends is profound because it recognizes a problem which manifests itself in numerous ways,” he said. “Teen suicide is only the gravest manifestation. But teen mental health and self-esteem issues often become contributors to the scourge of drugs, the downhill roll of promiscuity and anxiety of strained families. Izzy and her organization not only raise awareness, they elicit response in a safe, affirming environment. The core ideal is that each person has a dignity given them by God.”

Pesci, Korb and Newcomer were trained in QPR. When teens approach them for help, they suggest getting an adult involved to help and offer resources on their website, and

Pesci said, “I tell them, ‘I am here for you and I will support you.’”

Leaving Wisconsin for college hasn’t stopped Newcomer from working on suicide prevention. She organized a TTYL concert in November 2015 in Nashville.

The TTYL co-founders are planning an informal dance for April. They are seeking donations to raise awareness and set a good example for others.  They continue to receive tweets saying thank you for opening a dialogue.