EVART — Students at Evart High school placed memorials throughout the school to honor 15-year-old Dylan Shaw and help students come to terms with his absence.
Shaw fell through the ice over the Muskegon River on Thursday.
The memorials included decorations on his locker where students could write down their goodbyes, a table in the lunchroom to write letters and make donations to the family and a traveling ribbon that moved from class to class to mark off Shaw’s desk.
“This is a way for the kids to say goodbye and create some kind of closure,‘ said Evart High School Principal Jessica Kolenda.
As the day went on, Kolenda said the memorials were helpful to some while others found it better to sit and talk to someone.
“Grief is a funny thing,‘ said Kolenda. “Each student is handling it differently. Some are stopping at the locker and writing down something and some are just reading what others wrote. Some are surprised with how hard it is hitting them and others are wondering why they aren’t taking it as bad as they thought they would.‘
To help in the grieving process, Evart High School had around 40 crisis professionals for students to talk with throughout the day, said Kolenda.
As her own addition to the memorials, Kolenda placed a candle and pictures on a table in the main office.
“The candle will remain lit until (Shaw) is found,‘ she said.
The search for Shaw was suspended Friday. Officials made the decision to wait until the ice on the Muskegon thaws and begins to break up to continue their search, according to Osceola County Sheriff Justin Halladay.
Walking the halls, students also had the opportunity to be comforted by crisis response dogs thanks to HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response.
“The overall response so far today has been overwhelmingly great,‘ said HOPE team leader William Engelter. “The dogs provide a calming effect that has allowed some students to just sit and process what they are going through.‘
Along with dogs walking the halls and hanging out in the school library, one dog followed Shaw’s class schedule along with the mobile memorial.
“It provides an extra layer to the healing process,‘ said Kolenda. “I think having the dog go from class to class has helped kids in providing an extra bit of comfort throughout today.‘
As time goes on, Kolenda still plans to provide resources to the students on individual and small group levels and monitor students closely.
“We have to pull together and do what we can to provide anything that anyone in our school might need a week, a month, even a year from now,‘ she said.