Deerfield Beach High School is mourning the death of two students in the span of one month. Bryce Gowdy, a 17-year-old senior died Dec. 1. His death was ruled a suicide. His classmate,15-year-old sophomore Terrence Jackson, was killed Feb. 1 by a single gun shot to the neck. Both football players of the Broward County school are survived by parents, siblings and a community of faculty, staff and friends, who have gravitated toward self-care, counseling and unity in the aftermath.
Dreams for both young men were deferred by an untimely final breath.
Terrence opted out of attending a college tour trip with his coach and team to pay final respects at his grandfather’s funeral at Victory City Church in Rivera Beach in Palm Beach County.
Following a spray of 13 bullets detected by shot spotter technology, Terrence was slain by a single bullet to the neck. Royce Freeman, a 47-year-old man was killed and 30-year-old Shanita Miller was transported to St. Marys Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries.
Bryce was a Georgia Tech athletic recruit who completed high school course work early to begin college classes. The Miami Times reported Jan. 5 that he was struck by a train. His family was wrought by socioeconomic issues including homelessness and mental health challenges.
Broward County Public School released a statement Sunday, Feb. 2, concerning Terrence.
“A Deerfield Beach High School 10th grader, Terrence Jackson, lost his life this weekend. Terrence was a good student and a good athlete … and will be deeply missed by his teammates, friends and teachers. The District will provide counseling support to students at the high school starting on Monday, February 3, 2020. Our condolences and thoughts go out to Terrence’s family, friends and the community.”
Jevon Glenn has taken a tough, personal hit. The Deerfield Beach football coach has endured the loss of two players with promising futures. Glenn told The Miami Times Thursday, Feb., “I just want to mourn and focus on the kids and healing right now.”
The Deerfield High football team and student government association asked the student body to help commemorate Terrence’s 16th birthday on Wednesday, Feb. 5. “Think Pink, Think Tee Jay” inspired a sea of pink to engulf the halls and classrooms of Deerfield High. A candlelight vigil was held the same night at Deerfield Beach Pier. A GoFundMe account shows $8,934 of $20,000 the family is requesting has been collected.
Wanda Kearney has been on the frontline of direct student contact at Deerfield High for 20 years. She is the school’s security guard officer and knew both Bryce and Terrence. She talked to The Miami Times on Saturday, Feb. 8.
“Seems like they are more concerned about each other’s needs after this, and a lot of them console one another,” said Kearney who attended Bryce’s funeral and plans to pay final respects to Terrence.
“You can tell the good ones from the bad ones … Terrence was very mannerable, but I knew Bryce better because he was a senior. He was very respectful … it hurts, it hurts, but you know life goes on. I have to just pray for the family.”
Addressing emotional pain in academic environments has been a priority for Nora Rupert. For 10 years, she has as District 7, school board member. Rupert was elected vice chair for the 2016-17 school year and chair for 2017-18.
Throughout her career, Rupert has been exposed to the management of student death including two back-to-back student suicides at her former school. Following the Majory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, she endured the aftermath of a single student suicide.
Rupert currently has administrative oversight of several county schools including Broward, Pompano, Coconut Creek. Collectively, they are a segment of students where mental health issues abound and being placed under Baker Act is commonplace.
“It is my practice to check emails, texts and messages every night before bed. After Bryce died, a concerned father sent an email distributed to every school board member,” Rupert told The Miami Times. “He was upset that his daughter was having suicide ideations and was not getting help coping. I called our student services department and gave an immediate directive, and the coordination that followed was flawless.”
A Mental Health Resource Fair Parent Night was held Thursday, Jan. 30 in the Deerfield High auditorium, but Rupert’s impetus to do more followed the celebration of life service for Bryce. Rupert met the student’s grandfather who said, “Please do not let this be the last thing to represent my grandson.”
Rupert then attended a meeting for a group called Educators Collaborative to Prevent Suicide, a consortium of educators, law enforcement, social services professionals and more.
“Bryce was a student who had it all. He was a leader on and off the field and I made his grandfather a promise,” said Rupert. “The group was organized, but lacked leadership. They elected me chair and we work with wonderful partners including Children’s Services Council, Henderson Behavioral Health and more.”
“Let’s Talk About the Pressures Facing Today’s Youth: Vaping, alcohol, cyberbullying, social media, academic stress, anxiety and depression,” is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 12 from 6 to 8 p.m. at E. Pat Larkins Community Center, 520 NW Third St., Pompano Beach.
The family communication and wellness town hall meeting is a collaboration between Broward County Public Schools, Broward Behavioral Health Coalition, United Way of Broward County and others. Joel Smith, Florida Initiative for Suicide Prevention Program director will moderate and invited panelists include Darrell Cunningham, Broward Community Partnership director; Blake Cohen, Recovery Unplugged national outreach manager; and, of course, Rupert. Mayor Rex Hardin of Pompano Beach will offer welcome remarks.
“When people are really struggling with mental health, they won’t really come out and tell you,” said Ganesha Daniel, a Deerfield High student who was saddened the school has lost two beach boys. “The school has done a good job. They’re more aware and trying to make sure everybody is OK.”