From the age of five Gemma-May Grotepass was marked for leadership.

Her debating and writing skills earned countless awards. She was destined to become one of the frontrunners of her generation. Then in 2011, at the age of 16, she was diagnosed with a virulent form of the Epstein-Barr virus. Bed-ridden for two years, she thought her life had ended.

To cope with the physical, emotional and psychological trauma, she started writing “chapters” on the issues that assailed her: fear, anger, depression, suicide. They became a book, Gemma’s Gems, that continues to give hope and encouragement to countless teens experiencing similar emotions.

Her illness didn’t stop her acting as a HIP2B² brand ambassador for two years, producing a monthly science magazine that was distributed to schools throughout South Africa and organising events to encourage learners to pursue careers in math and science.

She was also on the student leadership council at the British International College in Pretoria in her final year of high school. Grotepass has since made the honours list in the 2015 SA Writers College Short Story Award competition.

She believes that through her writing, her experiences can bring inspiration, hope and determination to young people struggling with life’s challenges.

Find Grotepass on Twitter: @GemMayGrotepass