Clovis East High School plans memorial for lives lost

CLOVIS, California

When Clovis East grad Michael Rojas was killed in Iraq in 2007, his former teacher Don Van Ness wanted to honor him with an on-campus memorial plaque. But those plans have grown into a memorial grove with three walls and several benches to honor all Clovis East students who have passed away.

Coach George Thornburg's son Gary died in a car accident in 2004. An emotional Thornburg said of the memorial, "All those feelings come out. It will make it all worthwhile."

Alyssa Wiley would have been a valedictorian this year. But she died in an ATV accident in 2008.

The campus is quiet and deserted now but Deputy Principal Shannon Lawrence says come fall, the memorial will stir discussion among students. Lawrence explained, "It will teach them a lot about caring and character and just about the integrity about what it takes about giving back. Just remembering those that have been such an important part of our school here."

Don Van Ness said several people and businesses have donated time and money to make the project happen. He said, "People loved those kids and the loss of all those kids, we've lost a total of 16 and all those kids were loved by adults here."

Thornburg added, "Clovis East prides itself as being a family and I think it's something we needed to have on this campus."

At this point the plan is to dedicate the Clovis East memorial grove in the fall, on September 11th.

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