Over the past few months, the phrase “Keep Calm and Nina Strong” has spread over the Internet and social media sites, referring to the battle against cancer one Seymour teen faced for just over a year.

On Sunday Nov. 1, 2014, Seymour High School lost one of its beloved students, seventeen-year-old Nina Poeta. Nina fought the cancer hard. She underwent radiation, chemotherapy, and several experimental clinical trials. Her fight and will to live is inspiring and touching to students and adults alike.


Poeta was all smiles throughout the duration of her disease.


“She passed peacefully with her loving family all around her. It was approximately 11 p.m. on Nov. 1.,” family friend Elizabeth Pisano told the New Haven Independent. Nina is survived by her parents Dorie and John Poeta and her sister Cara Poeta.

Nina was diagnosed with a rare and inoperable brain tumor in November 2013 after complaining of intense headaches. This diagnosis did not break the exuberant cheerleader’s spirit. In fact, the two-time All-State cheerleader continued cheering throughout her radiation treatments. She continued attending school and practice as normally as she could for as long as possible. She even won her second State Championship, but over the summer, she got worse and more medical issues arose, confining her to a wheelchair and limiting her communication.

Last November, Pisano started a GoFundMe campaign hoping to help with the family’s medical expenses, raising over $100,000 so far. All of the money that is raised goes to paying the medical bills and other expenses brought on by Nina’s disease.


Abby Eisner, CRHS Alumni, and her cheerleading team at Bentley University raised money this past fall for the Poeta’s.

Our own cheerleading team has participated in NinaStrong activities and fundraising. See crhsnews.com for the full story. CRHS graduate Abby Eisner and her cheer team at Bentley University had a Poeta Strong Spirit Day and raised over $180 for the cause.


Poeta’s parents are in disbelief as they admire the van that was donated to them.

Nina’s family was beyond grateful when a local auto group donated a fully equipped, handicapped accessible van to help their daughter get around. The van had the message “Keep Calm and Nina Strong” on it.

The van allowed her to go to Seymour’s homecoming game where she was honored by both her school and the opposing school’s cheerleaders. Her football star boyfriend ran out and gave her a kiss on the cheek before the start of the game.


Poeta and her boyfriend, Jake Bleau, at their prom.

Towards the end, she didn’t look like the Nina that everyone had come to know and love, but on the inside she was still there. Nina’s family, friends, fellow cheer squad members, and boyfriend Jake Bleau stuck by her throughout the duration of her disease.


A final kiss on the head before the start of the Seymour homecoming game.

On Nov. 5, 2014, more than 2,000 people gathered in Seymour to conduct a “Walk of Light” vigil at the high school in memory of Nina.


Seymour held a “Walk of Light” vigil for Nina after her passing.

The Poeta family was honored as the Grand Marshall in the 43rd Annual Seymour Christmas Parade.


The Poeta family before the Seymour Christmas Parade.

“About a year ago, Nina and her family received the worst news possible (with her cancer diagnosis), but as Nina faced the most adverse conditions, she stayed strong. … So, please, be Nina Strong forever,” Seymour High School Principal James Freund told the New Haven Register.

For more information on Nina’s story, go to: www.facebook.com/PoetaStrong

For more information on how to donate, go to: www.gofundme.com/NinaStrong

You can follow @PoetaStrong on Twitter and on Instagram.

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