High school community grieves the loss of one of its own

| 22 Feb 2012 | 04:33

CENTRAL VALLEY - Students and faculty at Monroe-Woodbury High School spent this past week coping with the unexpected loss of a member of the school’s community. Justin Dimino of Monroe, who died last Sunday, was remembered today with kind and loving words and heartfelt prayers at a Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Monroe filled to capacity by family and friends who mourned the loss of the starting defensive back for the champion Monroe-Woodbury Crusaders. “Justin was the boy who lit up a room with his smile and personality,” said a statement from his family. “Football was the love of his life, as was his family and friends. For Justin, the sun rose with his mother and set with his brother. Justin will always hold a special place in all of our hearts.” 'Footprints in our hearts’ To help students cope with the loss of their friend, school officials were quick to organize a crisis team of psychologists, social workers and guidance counselors ready to meet with students and staff on Monday morning. “We made sure all the resources were available in the building,” said Principal David Bernsley. “We made sure they (students and staff) had a place to go to cry … to let it out … to have a place to go to and people to turn to. This is not a time to keep it in; it’s a time to let it out. We had professionals there to work with them. I’m very proud of the staff at the high school for coming together, mainly for the students, but also for each other. It’s a very strong unit that deeply cares and loves each other and the students.” Those services will remain available for a while as school officials continue to assess the student body’s mood, according to Bernsley, and keep watch on anyone they feel might need special assistance. Very quickly, students joined groups remembering Justin on Facebook, posting thoughts to support the family. In many ways, the social networking site served as a conduit for them to address their own grief while showing their love and affection to Justin. “You’ve left footprints in our hearts... Keep shining angel, there’s no one better up there. #24 forever,” wrote one on the Facebook page, “Once a Crusader, Always a Crusader. #24.” R.I.P.” “You’re not really gone. You’re nowhere near gone,” wrote Alley Ogut on the Facebook page, “R.I.P. Justin Dimino.” “You’re more alive than ever in our hearts,” her posting said. “Tonight, every single one of us pray for you. Even the non-religious pray for you. All we can hope is that you can sense how much love is out there for you tonight, and how much more is to come. You’re a beautiful person, and will always be with us. Please, rest in peace.” 'One of our sons’ Even those who didn’t have a personal connection to Justin - in some instances, football players from other schools who played against the Monroe-Woodbury Crusaders - left messages of condolence. “I didn’t know you Justin, but every football player has a connection to each other,” wrote Dale Aurre. “Rest in peace and hopefully I will meet you one day.” Bernsley wanted Justin’s family to know how much people at the high school cared for him. “We lost one of our sons in the community,” he said. “This is a tragic event that no one will ever be able to put their arms around. When we lose one of our family members, it’s painful. It’s important for the family to know that they have the support of the community as a whole, and that the school district represents the community, and that their child was really loved.” A community gathers on Facebook The social networking site Facebook is a location for people to express their thoughts about Justin Dimino. The biggest page, “R.I.P. Justin Dimino,” already has over 3,400 members. Other pages are “'Till we meet again, rest in peace our friend; Justin Dimino” and “Once a Crusader, Always a Crusader. #24.” R.I.P.” To post your thoughts, visit www.facebook.com and key in any of these pages. Here’s a selection of what people have to say: • Adanna Angela Ukekwe: Justin was an amazing guy, he used to sit next to me in bio. And he was so sweet. RIP • Wanda De Jesus Jacobsen: Praying that God will embrace your family during this most difficult time in their life. May God give strength to your friends to keep your wonderful memory alive. • Brian Monahan: I’ll never forget Justin your 47 yard TD run vs. East Chester in our undefeated season. You were a great football player and a better person. It was my pleasure having you in my life for only a short time. I will never forget you, Coach Brian • Anthony Kressevich: go to http://welovejustin.dyndns.org/ to leave a comment about Justin Dimino that will be put into a book • Manny Ortiz: As a fellow section nine player from Wallkill I want to say my prayers go out to Justin and his family. I sorry to hear this, and I will pray that his family has the power to not give up because he may not be here with us today but he will be watching over u guys in heaven. • Kevin Araujo: I don’t know you or even go to your school. All I can say is that a team of 44 boys went silent when we heard of the news. R.I.P. It’s important for the family to know that they have the support of the community as a whole, and that the school district represents the community, and that their child was really loved.’ David Bernsley, principal of Monroe-Woodbury High School, talking about the school’s feelings about Justin Dimino, who passed away last Sunday. If you need help Monroe-Woodbury High School officials have posted the following on the high school’s page, available via: www.mw.k12.ny.us/high_school.cfm?isdf=3303: If you find yourself, a friend or a family member in need of emotional or mental health support services while school is not in session, please be reminded that you can always contact your health care provider for assistance. In addition, the following list of community- based resources are also available to you: Mobile Mental Health - (24 hours a day, seven days a week) Toll Free 1-888-750-2266 Helpline - (24 hours a day, seven days a week) Toll Free - 1-800-832-1200 211 Information and Referral Service - 211