Effort to honor slain athlete Vanden continues – The Vacaville Reporter

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Despite an apparent rebuff from some Travis Unified leaders, a community-wide movement to commemorate a star Vanden High student-athlete who was shot last year and later died will continue, officials said Friday. organizers of the effort.

Specifically, some of those leading the effort to commemorate 17-year-old Daniel Dejon Hughes said they were more motivated than ever to name the school’s sports stadium after the football and basketball player. viking.

In interviews and in emails, they note that the soccer field was named after George A. Gammon decades ago, but the stadium was never officially named.

At Tuesday’s school board meeting, nearly a dozen people, including Hughes’ father Dejon, spoke in favor of the idea and at one point presented an illustration of what would look like a proposed entrance for the stadium in Daniel’s honor when completed at the Markeley Lane campus in Fairfield.

As part of his remarks to the board, Dejon said Friday that the “conceptual entrance to the stadium” would also honor the Viking football team that recently won a state championship. He noted that the team’s final season was “dedicated to Daniel”.

“There’s a lot more to the stadium naming than just Daniel,” Dejon said. “I’m trying to let the board know that.”

Vanden High wide receiver Daniel Hughes (9) catches a pass during the Vikings game against Vacaville High School last April. Hughes was shot and killed shortly after playing that game. His father, close school friends, and his youth athletic coaches asked the Travis Unified School District to add Daniel’s name to the stadium. football club to honor his memory. (Joel Rosenbaum/Reporter File Photo

He said his proposal, backed by a petition reportedly signed by more than 1,700 people, will not require taxpayers’ money to complete, but will be paid for with donations and in-kind labor, a point he and others “clearly stated”. added, during a meeting Thursday at district offices with Superintendent Pamela Conklin.

But Dejon, Maria Figueroa, administrator of the Parents of TUSD Facebook page, and Mark Null, the junior college football coach, said Conklin and some board members showed indifference, if not opposition. total, to the idea.

“The request has been made,” Conklin said Friday. “But we certainly had many, many conversations with the family. Our heart goes out to the family, in partnership with them. It’s just that the memorial, as they described it, is not possible or doable.

She added, “Doing any type of project in isolation would not be a good decision. In fact, if we could have a renovation project at the stadium, it could affect future renovations. »

But she also claimed a memorial stadium entrance dedicated to Daniel Hughes and others “could affect the mental health of students”.

However, she did not provide — or allude to — evidence from health experts or details from peer-reviewed studies that would support her claim, statements she also made at the meeting. Thursday, Dejon, Figueroa and Null said.

Conklin suggested the way to commemorate Daniel Hughes would be to plant a tree, pay for a bench, or provide an ongoing scholarship.

“We welcome these types of memorials,” she said, adding, “We want to work with the family. Our thoughts are with family and friends. We are more than willing to continue working with them in a way that honors Daniel.

Dejon said he left the meeting with Conklin and Vanden High principal Kristin Shields “very disappointed.”

Taylor Ledbetter (left), a senior from Vanden High School poses with Daniel Hughes in December 2020. Taylor was a close childhood friend of Daniel and has spoken about the impact of losing Daniel and who he was during at a Travis Unified School Board meeting last week. (Photo courtesy of Taylor Ledbetter)

“I never asked the school to fund this project,” he noted and added that donors and community members will bring “additional labor and money.” to construct the proposed entrance.

Null took umbrage at Conklin’s assertion regarding the effect of the proposed memorial on students’ mental health.

“Is this an opinion or a fact? he asked rhetorically. “Who did she bring in and do a consultation” that such a memorial would affect the mental health of the students?

“What about students’ sanity when they see a bench?” He asked.

Null believes the proposed memorial would instead be “a place of healing and a place of comfort” for students, school athletes and coaches. “In my opinion, because we are talking about opinions, I see it as a place of relief and reflection.”

In an email to The Reporter, Figueroa recalled that Conklin, at Thursday’s meeting, said Vanden High “is not a graveyard” and believes the school is “not a place where any kind memorial for Daniel or anyone else in the district should be remembered.The pew is the only thing she thinks comes close to being appropriate.

Family and friends of Daniel Hughes have started a petition to have his name added to the Vanden High School football stadium. Hughes was a member of the school football and basketball teams was shot and killed last April. (Joel Rosenbaum/The Reporter)

A 2021 Vanden High graduate and former football teammate, Isaiah Carter, supports the Daniel Hughes memorial effort “because I’ve seen firsthand the leadership he provided.”

“He always got up to motivate the players,” said Carter, 19, a student at Dominican University in San Rafael and a former student council member. “He has always been involved on campus outside of sports. I was there. I knew Daniel. They (Conklin and the directors) did not have the pleasure of knowing him. He was a student-athlete very involved in the community. He was very involved in the school.

Pam Conklin. (Photo added)

Carter said he felt some sadness about Conklin’s statements about the proposed memorial, saying, “They think Daniel’s story is a liability for the school. They are judging someone who has died. They didn’t know him.

“We will continue” to advocate for a memorial for Daniel Hughes, he added.

Null, also said the effort would continue, despite an apparent setback.

“It’s definitely not going to stop,” he added. “We will continue the effort,” even if some current directors are not reelected or choose to resign and if Conklin resigns.

Directors Manveer Sandhu and Riita De Anda did not return reporters’ requests for comment at press time Friday.

“All I need is for the board or the manager or the superintendent to say ‘yes,'” Dejon said, “That’s what I need.”

He said his son, who received notice of acceptance from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, was an outside linebacker and a strong defensive safety and offensive wide receiver for the Viking football team.

More than anything, he says, Daniel “was loving and genuine. He was a tall young man. He was a young man who loved everyone. He loved soccer. He was on his way. He had a scholarship offer.

But Daniel was also an exemplary young man in death, his father said, noting that his son was an organ donor.

“He saved lives,” Dejon said. “My grandson’s father needed a kidney and Daniel donated his kidney. He saved lives. Someone has his heart, his two lungs and his liver. He was a multi-sport athlete. The legacy of this would be greatly appreciated if the district and the community could honor this.

“We don’t want Gammon’s name to come out,” he added. “We want to be respectful to the Gammon family. It all adds up. The entrance is a “middle ground” to give the stadium the name of Daniel. »

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