A Sequoia High School freshman passed away in an apparent suicide on Sept. 26.
The incident occurred at the Whipple Avenue railroad crossing in Redwood City, where a southbound Caltrain hit 14-year-old Holly Spalletta.
Since the tragedy, Sequoia Union High School District (SUHSD) members, students, and other individuals in the community have spoken up in an attempt to prevent future misfortunes from occurring.
Superintendent Mary Streshly released a statement the following day regarding the tragedy.
In an email addressed to SUHSD staff members and parents, Streshly said, “The loss of life of a student is both painful and traumatic due to the fact that it does not fit into the natural order of life, as we never expect our children to pass before we do. Yet, through this pain, we must come together to support each other, and, to support the family that just lost their child as their life has been forever changed. On behalf of Sequoia High School and the SUHSD, we extend our deepest condolences to the family, and want our community to know that we will be there for you as we navigate this tragic moment.”
Guidance counselors are always available to provide students with help on campus. Although they are often consulted for educational assistance, they are also there to aid students with mental health issues.
Kim Miller, a guidance counselor at Carlmont, said, “Students need to know that guidance counselors are available for more than just academic help. We are trained in social and emotional counseling as well. Safety is our main priority.”
The Spalletta family and their close friends were not available for comment. However, in order to “honor Holly’s memory by supporting her parents with final expenses in this most difficult time,” a support campaign has been created on YouCaring, a fundraising and crowdfunding website.
The description on Spalletta’s support campaign reads, “Holly was sweet, nurturing, brilliant, and trustworthy. She was a great friend with the biggest heart, and the world was such a brighter place with Holly in it. A portion of the proceeds will also be donated to Suicide Awareness and Prevention.”
After the tragedy on Sept. 26, students and staff members at Sequoia discussed the loss of Spalletta in many of their classes.
Abigail Laing, a junior at Sequoia, said, “Many of my teachers and our principal spoke to us about the tragedy that occurred and encouraged us to be nice to everyone. There needs to be more encouragement to use the free counseling at Sequoia; if you know someone is going through hard times, schedule an appointment for them at the Teen Resource Center.”
However, this was not the case for other schools in the district. At Carlmont, Miller and other counselors did not notice an unusual spike in attendance to visit guidance counselors, and there was not a school-wide announcement regarding the tragedy.
“Although there has not been higher traffic than usual around the counseling office, we are always here for our students. Emotional support is just as important as academics,” said Miller.
In an effort to promote happiness on high school campuses, students like Laing have established clubs dedicated to spreading positivity.
Laing said, “Recently, a few of my friends started the Random Acts of Kindness Club that aims to spread happiness around Sequoia. Sequoia also features many mental health posters around campus, and I think that more encouragement of using the Teen Resource Center as a safe place to get counseling is beneficial.”
As the community moves forward past times of loss and tragedy, Streshly believes in the reinforcement of keeping SUHSD schools accepting and safe.
“The loss of a student is one of the most difficult challenges a school community can ever face. As deeply saddened as we have been since we were informed of her tragic loss, the staff has come together to provide all of our students with additional support to help them through this difficult time. We are constantly working to make our schools safe and welcoming environments for all of our students. As educators, this is a priority because we understand that, if students feel safe, they are also able to focus on learning,” said Streshly.