Clovis East Memorial Garden honors classmates and staff

FRESNO, Calif.

The Clovis East Memorial serves as a permanent reminder of classmates lost. The school is planning a special ceremony to dedicate the memorial on Saturday.

The Clovis East Memorial Garden offers students a place to sit and reflect. The memorial honors eight former students as well as volleyball coach Daren Torbet. The 38-year old died of brain cancer in July.

"I wouldn't be in the volleyball program if it were not for Mr. Torbet. He inspired me and beloved in me to be a good volleyball player," said Clovis East senior Brandon Ikuma, "I'm very happy that I could be a part of this and help this out right here."

When Corporal Mike Rojas was killed in Iraq in April in 2007, his science teacher Don Van Ness wanted to honor his former student.

"I wanted to do something for Mike Rojas' family in the name of Mike -- so what started out as a simple plaque and a tree became much larger," said science teacher Don Van Ness.

Brick by brick, Van Ness rounded up donors around the community. He helped raise $33,000 to build the student and staff memorial.

Clovis east has been hit hard by tragedy; Alyssa Wiley would have been a valedictorian last year. She died in an accident in 2008. Gary Thornburg was killed in a crash in 2004.

Deputy Principal Shannon Lawrence says the memorial garden shows families how much their kids were appreciated. "So many of the kids wanted to express themselves and express the love and how these students that, although, they left us they continue to live on through the lives of our other students here. And it was just a way to honor what they have meant to them."

Lawrence says the memorial is an example of how much the district values the lives of its students.

The official dedication ceremony for the Clovis East Memorial Garden takes place this Saturday, September 11th at 10 a.m.

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