Hundreds attend candlelight vigil for classmate

Students light each other’s candles during a candlelight vigil at Olive Peirce Middle School last Wednesday evening in memory of an eighth-grader who took his own life two days earlier.  Sentinel photo/Nancy Stegon
Students light each other’s candles during a candlelight vigil at Olive Peirce Middle School last Wednesday evening in memory of an eighth-grader who took his own life two days earlier. Sentinel photo/Nancy Stegon

Students air video

By Karen Brainard

“He was always happy.” “Always smiling.”

Those were some of the descriptions Olive Peirce Middle School students gave of classmate Chris Jaquez after a candlelight vigil in his memory on Wednesday night, Sept. 19.

Hundreds turned out for Chris, an eighth-grader who took his life on Sept. 17, but who impacted many other lives. At the emotional vigil outside the OPMS band room, students embraced and cried for their friend and classmate. Chris was a drummer in the school band, which played his favorite songs at the vigil.

Candles were lit, held up in prayer, and extinguished together. Students gathered in groups afterward, continuing to mourn their friend. They wore his favorite colors: orange and blue.

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Students at Olive Peirce Middle School light candles for their classmate. Sentinel photo/Nancy Stegon

“Chris was a positive, high energy, young man, looked up to and respected,” said OPMS Principal Linda Solis.

On Thursday morning, the school’s video production class aired a video about Chris on the “OPMS Today” broadcast.

On the video, photos of Chris were interspersed with statements of affection and respect. “You have made us better,” read one line. Other remembrances said he had made students happier and more loving. It ended with “Everyone loves you and always will.”

Solis said the OPMS family has suffered the loss of a special student.

In addition to being well-liked and respected, he had a 4.0 GPA and was college-bound, Solis said.

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After playing some of Chris Jaquez’s favorite songs, students in the Olive Peirce Middle School Band begin lighting candles, extending their flames to others. Sentinel photo/Nancy Stegon

“He was a super talented student,” she said.

“We are grieving with Chris’ family and we’re  supporting our students in knowing they are loved and cared for,” said the principal.

The school provided grief counseling and Solis talked to students about reflecting and valuing friendships. Lesson plans included reading about “emotional bank accounts” from the book “7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.”

Solis addressed rumors that Chris took his life because he was bullied, saying, “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

“Sadly individuals spin stories inaccurately that are hurtful to everybody.”

Many students also said they never heard of any bullying. And if that had happened, “Anyone would have stood up for Chris,” said fellow eighth-grader Eder Landgrave.

Solis pointed out that the outpouring of emotion from students and teachers showed how many lives he touched.

‘It’s Up to Us’ program offers suicide prevention resources

It’s Up to Us is a campaign, provided on behalf of the San Diego County Suicide Prevention Council, to combat suicides, and through its website, Up2SD.org, offers information, warning signs, and and resources for help.

The organization also provides a 24-hour crisis line at 888-724-7240.

Below are signs of crisis or concerns listed on the website, adapted from Suicide Prevention Resource Center, www.sprc.org.

Signs of Crisis

Call 9-1-1, or seek immediate help when you hear or see any one of these behaviors:

•Someone threatening to hurt or kill themselves

•Someone looking for ways to kill themselves—seeking access to pills, weapons, or other means

•Someone talking or writing about suicide, or about death and dying when this is out of the ordinary for them

Signs of Concern

If someone you care about is showing any or a combination of the following behaviors, have them or help them call the San Diego Crisis Hotline at 888-724-7240. You could be saving a life.

•Hopelessness

•Rage, anger, seeking revenge

•Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking

•Feeling trapped—like there’s no way out

•Increasing alcohol or drug use

•Withdrawing from friends, family, or society

•Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep, or sleeping all the time

•Dramatic mood changes

•No reason for living; no sense of purpose in life

•Someone close to them has died by suicide in the past

•The person has attempted to kill themselves in the past

   
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