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LDS teacher mourns loss of two former students in high-profile crash

By Jason Wright

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, April 23 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

Two of Kate Parkinson's students at Animo Inglewood High School in Los Angeles.

Kate Parkinson

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This week I was approached about dedicating one of my weekly columns to the story of Kate Parkinson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with a special connection to the deadly April 10 crash of a FedEx truck and a charter-bus near Orland, Calif. The bus was carrying eager high school students from L.A. to the campus of Humboldt State University.

As we began to communicate and I researched the story and Parkinson's tender connection to some of the students on board, it became obvious that Parkinson herself was best suited to explain why, more than most, she mourns the tragic loss of these unique dreamers.

Though I would have been honored to report her experiences, there is nothing I could add to Parkinson's very poignant post. The following is an exerpt from Parkinson's Pontifications.

As you know, I moved to Virginia last year. Before that, I was involved in Teach For America at Animo Inglewood High School in Los Angeles and taught Writing Composition and Reading to ninth- and 10th-graders. I stayed on after my commitment because I fell in love with the students.

These students were from "the hood" — as they themselves like to say, "Inglehood." Most are first-generation college-bound, and they had been educationally underserved almost all of their lives. The academic achievement gap resulting from such under service was astonishing to witness first hand. However, despite their harsh circumstances and challenges that most of them thought was normal, everyday life, never in my life had I received so much love from teenagers. Conversations in the hallways, talks after school, gifts, thank-you notes, mutual respect, always hellos and smiles from the minute I walked into the school. We really were an Animo Family.

I grew close to so many students that when I had a baby and my husband needed to relocate to Washington, D.C., for work, leaving was a devastating transition for me. I had learned so much from the scholars that daily repeated the unified creed at the start of each class: "We are strong. We are brilliant. We will succeed."

And I saw success. I won't go into too many details, but this post is not about all of my students collectively. But I did indeed see students who had never before thought of themselves as writers, as talented, as college-bound, find a different life trajectory for themselves and fight every day to achieve it.

Last week I got news about two of my favorite students. This news was nothing I could have anticipated. I write this post with grief in my heart because Denise Gomez and Ismael Jimenez, bound for great things and full of angelic vigor and motivation, passed away unexpectedly in a terrible accident.

Click here to read the rest of Parkinson's post at Parkinson's Pontifications.

Jason Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars" and "The Wednesday Letters." Learn more at jasonfwright.com, or connect on Facebook at facebook.com/jfwbooks or by email at jwright@deseretnews.com

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