More than 800 students, teachers and others packed the sanctuary of Valley Community Church last night for the memorial service for Evelyn Gonzalez, 14, an Amador Valley High School freshman who died Friday.
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.
Tonight, the school district will host a community forum from 7 to 8:30 p.m. night in the Amador Valley High library. At the forum, counselors will be available to speak to the public and review signs of depression as well as look for ways the community and schools can work together to support students.
"We encourage families to keep lines of communication open with your students and talk with them about their concerns and feelings," PUSD spokeswoman Myla Grasso said in an email to parents and staff.
Signs of depression, she added, include: sudden changes in behavior, dramatic changes in appetite, sleeping difficulties, poor performance in school, trouble concentrating and agitation, inability to sit still, unexplained loss of energy or excessive fatigue, loss of interest in friends, increased drug/alcohol use, constant feeling of worthlessness or self-hatred, excessive risk taking, preoccupation with death, dying, or suicide; and giving away of personal or prized possessions.
More than 100 fellow students held a candlelight vigil at Amador last Saturday and some also met with school counselors who were available then. Counselors from both Amador and Foothill High School were also available Tuesday when classes resumed after the Washington birthday holiday on Monday.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Evelyn's family and friends at this difficult time," said Principal Bill Coupe in an email to parents and guardians of Amador students Friday shortly after Gonzalez was killed after stepping in front of a Union Pacific freight train on tracks next to the school.
Pleasanton Police Lt. Jeff Bretzing,who investigated the accident, said he could not say why Gonzales walked onto the tracks.