Paying tribute to UC Merced student killed in crash

FRESNO, Calif.

19-year-old Leslie Alvarez grew up in the Kings County town of Laton. She and fellow UC Merced student Jessica Lopez, 19, died Saturday just blocks away from the campus.

More than a hundred family and friends came together to walk the streets of Laton, ending at Leslie Alvarez's church, where they prayed with her family.

"Leslie Alvarez is extraordinary," said Edgar Alvarez, Leslie's older brother. "I'm just so proud of her, her life is an accomplishment, and nothing ever held her back."

Edgar told Action News even though Leslie accomplished so much in her short life she had big dreams. While those dreams will never be realized, Leslie had already touched so many lives, as evident by the amount of people that showed up to remember her Wednesday. and a heavy heart.

"She was amazing person, and incredible person," Edgar said.

"It's a heartbreak, and it's going to take a long long time for Laton to heal," said Laton School Board Member Daniel Vargas. He knew Leslie and her family very well. He said Leslie was a unique person who could relate, not only to her friends, but to adults around her.

Friends carried a sign the width of the street as a big gesture for a person with a big heart. The crowd eventually gathered in front of Leslie's home, offering condolences to her parents.

The sorrow was evident on their faces, but the pain, they say, is eased by the hugs and prayers that were offered.

"She's wonderful, she is an angle of God," Leslie's brother added.

Inside the church, friends shared stories and took time to remember a life cut short.

While friends and family gathered in Laton to remember Alvarez, a separate private ceremony was held at UC Merced to remember Jessica Lopez who was also killed in the crash.

Their funerals are scheduled for later this week.

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