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Counselors have been on hand at Los Alamos High School and middle school since Monday, and they will continue to be available as students and faculty mourn the passing of Nikolas Ventura-Arencon. His funeral was Wednesday morning at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church.
Ventura-Arencon, 14, and a freshman at LAHS, was killed in a car accident on N.M. 4 last week.
Since the accident, LAHS has been taking an active role in making sure students who knew Ventura-Arencon get the help they need to deal with the sudden death.
Guidance Counselors Prentice Chatfield, Danielle Straate, Enid Burgess and Cindy Black have been visiting classes and talking with students about Ventura-Arencon.
“We’ve had different reactions as any group of students would,” Straate said. “Some don’t react, some are crying, it’s very individualized.”
Though events like this don’t happen frequently, the staff does have specialized training to help students deal with what has happened.
“When you work in the school field, you’re working with a cross section of the entire community, and no one is exempt from life’s circumstances,” Chatfield said. “Dealing with loss is part of the grief process as well as the life process. We’re there to help facilitate the students as well as the staff, when there is an event that is distressing or shocking.”
Unfortunately however, this type of experience is not unique. Though the death of a student has not happened at LAHS in a number of years, many of the staff have experience in the event of sudden loss and the impact it has at a school or workplace.
“What we do in events like this is make sure that the kids know first and foremost that we’re here, and we’re available,” Chatfield said.
One of the most common questions they get is they want to know what happened, Burgess said.
“Not everyone will have read the paper or talked to a neighbor yet, so they’re wanting information,” Burgess said.
Chatfield added that many students just want to recall their favorite moments.
“A lot of what we see, too, is the kids just want to tell stories about the person who’s gone, and how long they’ve known them and the memories they’ve had, “Chatfield said. “We encourage that, because it’s good for them to talk and to get their feelings out so they don’t feel alone. One thing about sudden death is that it makes people feel like they are the only ones feeling these things.”
Students were allowed to also attend Wednesday’s funeral service, according to LAHS Principal Sandra Warnock. “It was their own personal choice if they wanted to do that,” she said.
“And of course, students can come in anytime to talk about Ventura-Arencon, whenever they want,” Burgess said.
“We are here for you, we are a part of the high school family, we are a community and we will help you,” she said.
“Everyone grieves differently. For some it’s immediate and for some, it can be a long time from now.”