ST. LOUIS – Alumni from Central Visual and Performing Arts High School showed support for those mourning the loss of 15-year-old Alexzandria Bell and 61-year-old Jean Kuczka. The two were shot and killed during Monday’s shooting inside the school.
Candles were lit outside the school Wednesday night, spelling out the victims’ last names. A vigil, including a balloon release, brought hundreds of community members together, including the families of both victims.
Bell’s mother, Keisha Acres, led the balloon release and called on anyone in a crisis to reach out for help. She said her daughter would have been celebrating her sweet 16th birthday next month.
“The world lost a crowned jewel,” said Terry, Bell’s godfather. “She was very, very, vibrant in everything she did.”
The organizer of the vigil was a former student of Kuczka’s, Emmanuel Haynes. Haynes graduated from CVPA in 2014. He operates the Urban Undertakers of St. Louis. He said he remembers the former teacher as being serious about her role as an educator.
“We need to come together as a community, definitely to pray for each other to keep everyone lifted up as well as pray for mental health,” Haynes said.
There were also calls for more restrictions on buying weapons, such as the AR-15 style rifle police say the shooter used. Mental health services were available at the vigil. The alumni promised to be available to provide support for anyone in need.
Jen Boston said being a spouse of a St. Louis Public School teacher now concerns her.
“Being married to a teacher is nothing that I thought I would have to worry about,” she said.
Boston said the turnout for the vigil was moving, but wish it didn’t happen.
“I so badly wish we didn’t have to be here and hope people will never have to gather for something like this again,” she said.