In the days following 18-year-old Santiago Mendia’s the school community has united to raise more than $600 for his family and also held an impromptu memorial service at the middle school.
“It is a horrible situation that has shown the best of the city,” said principal Fred Hutchinson.
The school sent a message to staff that said the Mendia family needed help covering the costs of funeral services on Tuesday. Since then, school staff and administration members have been donating money, from small bills to $50 bills.
The school district is also providing grievance counseling at the middle school for those who need those services.
When high school principal Fred Hutchinson, who does not speak Spanish, told the primarily Spanish-speaking family about the available counseling at the funeral Thursday, the message got lost in translation and led to an impromptu memorial reception for Mendia that afternoon, Hutchinson said.
About 160 people showed up at the Middle School at 1:30 p.m., thinking Hutchinson had said there was to be a memorial service. He and the few administrators who were there to help coordinate students to see grievance counselors acted quickly.
“We pooled our money, got 10 pizzas, donuts and soda and held an impromptu reception for the family,” Hutchinson said. “They were very grateful and I think it helped a little in the healing process for them today. It was not necessarily in the way we intended, but we think it helped.”
A diverse range of students paid their respects at Mendia’s wake, funeral and at the service, Hutchinson said.
Mendia was the middle of three children, according to Margie Daniels, Assistant Principal and Director of Guidance at Peekskill High School.
The 2012 PHS graduate was in the school’s Twilight Academy, a credit recovery program for students to achieve the goal of high school graduation. He was also a skilled soccer player and popular student.
“I found him to be a kind hearted, nice, gentle young man; always with a smile and really well loved by his peers, that was evidenced in the services (Wednesday) night,” Daniels said.
“He also had a dedication and commitment to finishing school and when it got hard for him he stuck with it and graduated,” Daniels said. “He planned to attend WCC and was going to try to help his family out. He loved his family a great deal.”
The school hopes to start a fundraiser in Mendia’s name to help students like him who strive to overcome the odds, Daniels said.
Mendia’s father Wilson also spoke to Hutchinson about starting a public service program about teens and drinking to help raise awareness of the issue. Mendia is believed to have been intoxicated when he wandered off late Saturday night, and a Valentine Grocery clerk was arrested for selling Mendia Four Loco alcohol that night,
Principal Hutchinson is encouraged by Wilson Mendia’s efforts to turn his loss into something positive for the community and is proud of the love and support he has seen this week during difficult times.
“We always talk about that we are a caring community, but today it really came out in a different way. In a spiritual, connected, emotional way,” Hutchinson said.
If you’d like to make a donation to the Mendias you can mail a check to Wilson Mendia 165 Second Street, Buchanan, NY. 10511.
If you would like to schedule a grievance counseling appointment call the high school at 737-0201.