Maple school deals with student deaths

By 
  • February 12, 2010
{mosimage}MAPLE, Ont. - A wooden cross now stands at the crash site which took the lives of two St. Joan of Arc Catholic High School students earlier this month.

A busload of students from the Toronto suburb of Maple school gathered two days after the accident, led by principal Antonella Rubino, to pray for their friends, Ryan Sheridan, 17, and Niko Di Iorio, 15. The students were killed in a car crash on Feb. 1.

It’s been a time of grief and sorrow for students and staff at St. Joan of Arc High School, having lost three students within a span of three weeks. But Rubino said they have also found solace and comfort in each other and in their faith.

The school’s first tragedy occurred on Jan. 12 when 17-year-old Steven Sexeiro was struck and killed by a truck at Keele Street and Rutherford Road while walking to school.

“It’s quite shocking and numbing to students and staff,” Rubino said of having to cope with three deaths almost at the same time.

Rubino describes Seixeiro, Sheridan and Di Iorio as “full of life in their own way.” Sexeiro was connected to the arts students, Di Iorio was involved in sports and Sheridan was new to the school but made friends easily, she said.

Rubino, who rented a school bus to visit the site, said students wanted to place a commemorative cross for their friends at the site. The cross was made by a woodworking teacher, who had taught Sheridan, and some construction technology students. Sheridan and Di Iorio’s names were seared into the cross. After a prayer service at the site, students taped flowers, teddy bears and rosaries to the cross.

Rubino said students and staff were offered support through the chaplaincy team and the board crisis response team. Prayer services were also held in the school chapel which was filled on a minute-by-minute basis.

The parents of Sheridan and Di Iorio attended a prayer service at the school. Afterwards, students offered their condolences to the families. Rubino said it was a “powerful moment” as students shared stories about their friends.

In addition to the chapel, the guidance office and main office were open as supervised spaces where students could grieve. And teachers offered students support within their classrooms, she said.

The school is planning a memorial service at the end of February.

Rubino said she is proud of how the students came together and responded to the tragedies. Soon after the car crash, some students composed prayers for Di Iorio and Sheridan, put together a slideshow of photos and wrote a rap song.

In memory of Sexeiro, the school’s basketball team raised more than $1,200 and donated it to the Haiti earthquake relief since Sexeiro’s accident occurred on the same day as the earthquake. The team also wore t-shirts emblazoned with Sexeiro’s image during a game.

“Just knowing that through our Catholic education, being there in prayer helped us through the grieving process and will continue to. It doesn’t end here,” Rubino said. “If anything, it’s just beginning the healing stages.”

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