Pleasanton Weekly

News - March 5, 2010

Hundreds mourn loss of AVHS freshman

Teen suicide prompts district to host community forum

by Jeb Bing

More than 800 students, teachers and others packed the sanctuary of Valley Community Church last Wednesday for the memorial service for Evelyn Gonzalez, 14, an Amador Valley High School freshman who died Feb. 19.

Mourners stood along the sides and in the church foyer as the pews in the main sanctuary and the balcony quickly filled for the 6 p.m. service. Flowers also filled the church with several large tables positioned in the foyer for students to sign cards to express their sorrow and tributes to Gonzalez.

The Rev. Jeff Lange, the church's youth minister for high school students, talked about the many friendships Gonzalez had made during her first year at Amador, at Harvest Park, where she attended middle school, and in the community. An avid Facebook contributor, she also had friends far beyond Pleasanton she never really knew but enjoyed those communications, Lange said.

Friends and family members also talked about the cheer she brought to them, even in the most trying moments.

Following the incident, the school district held a community forum last Thursday night in the Amador library. Sheryl Pacheco, head counselor at the high school, said that room had been filled with students throughout the week who needed extra support.

Amador Vice Principal Rhea Brandon shared signs of depression and suicidal feelings so that parents could help identify needs for their children. With some of the signs can include typical teen habits, Brandon said that parents know their children best and should watch for them showing strange and out-of-character behaviors and changes.

Parents also had to opportunity to speak with the panel of experts, and many were concerned about how a suicide could happen with the current level of counseling support and resources.

Kevin Johnson, senior director of pupil services for the district, said they've also put together a parent support group. Anyone interested in learning more about that should email publicinfo@pleasanton.k12.ca.us.

Emily West contributed to this report.

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