Recent losses prompt the community to gather, remember, take action
Abby Baughman and Easterly Yeaman
After the recent loss of two beloved community members, junior Logan Betts on April 5, and seventh grade English teacher and football coach Trumaine Smith on April 8, the ESD community has come together to support each other in our time of grief. The administration worked with school counselors Merredith Stuelpe and Amanda Sherman to put together a plan in order to best support students as they came back to school.
Upper school students gathered in the chapel the morning of Thursday, April 6 when Head of School David Baad announced Logan’s death. After the announcement, members of the junior class sat in the quarry throughout the day because it was Logan’s favorite place on campus. Students also bought flowers and placed them by the quarry and under his photography work displayed in the Frank Building.
“Everyone was together, but not exactly,” junior Charlie Massoud said. “The quarry is a big open area, and it was Logan’s favorite spot so I figured it would be the best place for everyone to go if they wanted to be together.”
Later on Thursday, Baad communicated through email that students and their families were welcome to gather in the chapel from 5 to 6 p.m.
“Mr. Baad thought it was really important because when Logan’s death was announced, it was in the chapel, and people were really shocked and taken off guard,” Stuelpe said. “They really thought it was important to bring everybody back together in the chapel in a way that felt like they were providing structure to how everybody was grieving and coping and to sort of help people connect with each other in a way that was special.”
Junior Will Grogan and his friends brought candles for students to light and send out onto the quarry’s waters after the service. Students also placed candles around the flowers that had previously been laid out on the rocks in front of the quarry.
“I took my friends Tripp and Harry to Target and we bought 400 candles and some glue, and we went to Brooks’s and they had bought all this wood then we glued them on,” Grogan said. “We thought it’d be a nice touch to honor Logan.”
The response was a natural way for students to come together and support one another. When grieving, it’s common for people to take action.
“I think when people are grieving, they really are searching for something to do to make it more real because people are just shocked,” Stuelpe said. “The idea of coming together and having a ritual that memorialized Logan by putting the candles in the quarry, I think that was just a natural thing that organically happened and that wasn’t guided by any of the administration, but it was just another way to show how much the students care.”
Logan’s closest friends and family posted tributes on Instagram that received hundreds supportive comments and reposts from other students and friends of Logan. These tributes included pictures of Logan throughout his life along with captions sharing how Logan positively impacted their lives.
“I wanted to dedicate something to him since it was in my photography account,” Massoud said. “We shared a love for photography and were gonna go to AP together, so I mainly just wanted to make something to bring attention to his work and who he was so people could look into that.”
The following long weekend, Baad sent an email to parents notifying them of seventh grade English teacher Trumaine Smith’s death. In the email, Baad re-emphasized the importance of supporting one another by reaching out during difficult times.
“I hope that all of you were able to enjoy a peaceful long weekend with loved ones,” Baad said in his email to parents about returning to school Tuesday. “The past several days have brought significant heartache to our community with the deaths of junior Logan Betts and seventh grade English teacher Mr. Trumaine Smith.”
The administration knew that returning to school the following Tuesday would be a challenge for students, so they implemented multiple measures to make sure students were supported. Teachers were asked to use their own judgment to decide whether or not to continue class as normal.
The seventh-grade students returning to school had the opportunity to write letters to the Smith family. They were told to share funny memories or positive experiences with Mr. Smith.
“The way we phrased it to them, which I think was meaningful, was explaining that you saw Mr. Smith in a context that his family didn’t have access to,” middle school counselor Maricela Aquino said. “His wife doesn’t work here and his kids don’t go here. So being able to share funny memories or how Mr. Smith was for you as a teacher, is like giving them a glimpse of someone that they love in a way that, like, they don’t have access to. Like you guys are giving them that gift.”
On April 15, Lauren Swann parent of ‘29, ‘27 and ‘24 started a GoFundMe page dedicated to supporting the Smith family during a difficult time.
“This community loved Mr. Smith,” Swann said. “Each and every one of his students respected him greatly and each had a unique connection with him. He knew how to reach his students. I know our community wanted to honor him and let his family know how much he meant to us all and how much we loved him. Everyone was asking, ‘How can we help them?’ We thought that the GoFundMe would be helpful to his family and a way for the ESD families, friends, faculty and staff to support them.”
Only a few hours after the GoFundMe was started, the $15,000 goal was surpassed. Currently, ESD community members and friends of the Smith family have raised $32,000.
“I know that [donating to the Smith family] was also something that adults in the community like teachers were very interested in,” Aquino said. “There are several adults within the community saying making the cards and donating DoorDash or similar gift cards is all great and lovely, but the reality is he was in the hospital for multiple weeks and I’m sure that’s going to add up, so they [wanted to help the family] in a little bit more tangible way. So that was really amazing and wonderful just to see a very tangible way of measuring just the power of support that that ESD has.”
The counselors especially want to emphasize the importance of reaching out for help when needed. ESD has many resources other than counselors, including teachers, advisors and other trusted adults who care deeply about students.
“The counselors are always available,” Stuelpe said. “We have a student wellness group that is open to all upper school students. If somebody needs help or needs support, it’s so important for them to reach out. There’s a lot of resources here whether it’s Fr. Nate or it’s an advisor, or it’s the dean or whoever they feel most comfortable with. Finding an adult to talk to is really important.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the Suicide and Crisis Center of North Texas Hotline: (214)-828-1000