Tragedy strikes LT community


Ribbon of remembrance for Neyla Soriano

Ceili Doyle, News Editor

As visitors poured into the Lakewood Funeral Home in Chicago on Sept. 18 to pay their respects to Neyla Soriano ‘18, they picked up bright, red ribbons and prayer cards. The red was chosen to match the dress worn by Soriano on the front of the prayer card.

Four days prior, on Monday, Sept. 14, Soriano died by suicide according to the Department of Investigations in the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office. Soriano was a sophomore whose loss has devastated the students, faculty and the administration.

Soriano was a dynamic personality in LT who oftentimes demonstrated maturity beyond her years, those who knew her have said.

“She was one of the more thoughtful kids and she loved writing, which allowed her to explore that side of her,” English teacher Nicole Lombardi said. “A teacher always loves that kind of student, and any kind of one-on-one that we had you almost felt like you were talking to an adult. She had such an old spirit and an aura about her—a kind of heaviness that comes with older age that was just out on her sleeve.”

Click here to watch a video that Neyla made for her English class:

Soriano also carried her compassionate demeanor outside of the classroom and into the lives of her friends.

“She was just so cool, that sounds corny but it’s just true,” Belinda Andrade ’18 said. “Neyla was always there for me and knew how to make everybody feel good about themselves. When you’re friends with someone you try to lift them up when they’re down, but Neyla went over the top. She always did that.”

She was always that person that you joke around with and that could make a serious situation better, Alicia Camuy ’18 said.

According to sophomore Assistant Principal Kris Costopoulos, Soriano consistently made a conscious effort to go out of her way to greet staff members and administrators that she saw in the hallways.

“She had this inner light,” Costopoulos said. “I just don’t understand why whatever demons she was grappling with managed to put out her light; she was an amazing young woman.”

While Soriano’s death was perceived by many members of the community as a surprise, according to her friends, there were definite signs of depression.

“I wasn’t as shocked as perhaps some other people may have been,” Andrade said. “If you knew Neyla personally she wasn’t always happy. She wasn’t always content.”

This is the second death by suicide from an LT student in the past five months [here’s a link to a similar story about Dylan Buginas ’16] and many students are curious as to how the school responds to student deaths and how it helps to prevent suicide.

“I think the school could do more in preventing other people from [committing suicide], not necessarily covering their deaths, but making sure that nobody else has to deal with all that pain alone,” Delilah Medina ‘18 said. “Students should be aware that there are outlets they can go to.”

When a traumatic event occurs, LT assembles its crisis response team composed of 30 adults. These professional psychologists, guidance counselors, social workers, administrators and the public relations coordinator meet immediately after a tragedy has taken place and work together to assess the situation. They talk to the family and target services to those students and faculty members who are directly affected.

“One challenge that schools face is balancing the need to respect a family’s privacy (and working with the family) with knowing that many of our students are on social media and have information before we can share it with our community,” Principal Dr. Brian Waterman said. “We encountered that in this most recent tragedy, in that many LTHS students already knew what had happened because of social media.”

In this instance the crisis team chose to write a news bulletin on the school website (Crisis Team News Bulletin) to inform the community of the recent passing of a student and to offer social services to anyone who was in need of additional assistance.

“I feel like the school did a good job of keeping the details about Neyla to what the family wanted,” Natasha Youseff ’18 said.

On Tuesday, Sept. 15, the morning following Soriano’s death, students at Nazareth Academy held a moment of silence for Soriano, according to Nazareth senior Brenna Fritzche. However, Andrade’s appeal for a similar moment of silence to be held for Soriano at LT was not allowed.

“I had asked [Ms. Costopoulos] that they do a moment a silence for her the day after everyone found out, but she denied my request,” said Andrade.

LT’s refusal to grant Andrade with a moment of silence was not the school’s way of sweeping Soriano’s death under the rug, but rather a judgment call erring on the side of caution and research analyzed by the crisis team, Costopoulos said.

“Our main priority on [the day following Soriano’s death] is protecting our fragile kids who are in the school and the kids that are going to be the most affected by the student’s death,” Costopoulos said. “Having a moment of silence can exasperate that and can act as a trigger for someone who may not be strong emotionally and our focus then goes to helping those students. It’s not that we didn’t want to remember her; she was one of my favorite students of this class.”

The impact of Soriano’s death, regardless of circumstance, is still reverberating around the halls of LT.

“Everyone should remember her for how bright she was, for how happy she was how and how her aura could just spread to everyone around her—that’s just the kind of person she was,” Camuy said.

Her family, friends and school will continue to honor her memory.

“She was a great person, she was brilliant, she was kind and she made you feel like she cared even if she only talked to you once,” Medina said. “Losing her was really hard but I’m glad that I have all the memories that I did experience with her.”

The Speak-Up Line at LTHS is monitored on a regular basis by LT administration, and students can call the school at 1 (708)-588-7326 or email [email protected]. Students who are struggling can also contact the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255.