Miranda Dunsworth won’t get the chance to walk across the stage with her graduating class at Garden City High School in May, but thanks to two of her classmates and the generosity of many others, she will be there — in a way.
“We keep her memory alive by talking about the good memories that we have of her. I try to talk about her as much as I can, because it helps me,” GCHS senior Davida DeLeon said of Dunsworth, who died in a car accident in 2012 at the age of 16. “And it helps her mom, too. Her mom always tells me that all of these projects, the things that we do to keep Miranda’s memory alive, is what helps her keep going.”
DeLeon, along with senior Emily Burns, recently began raising funds for a memorial brick for Dunsworth that soon will take its place in the walkway to the student entrance of GCHS.
Burns actually got the idea when she was a sophomore.
“At the time, I was thinking, ‘That would be really cool, if someone did that for Miranda.’ And no one did it, no one did it,” Burns said.
She finally took it upon herself to do something about it this year.
Burns asked Librarian Janet Reed, who oversees the high school’s brick paver program, what all would be involved in getting a brick for her friend.
Reed told her that the brick would cost $100.
“‘And for your class, about 400 students, that’s only a quarter per student,’ I told her,” Reed said.
At that point, Burns decided she needed to enlist the help of DeLeon, who had been friends with Dunsworth since the two were young children.
“I was like, ‘She’ll make it happen,’” Burns said.
DeLeon immediately threw herself into the project, raising funds for the brick.
“I’ve known Miranda since we were like 4 years old, so her family is like family to me,” DeLeon said. “When Emily came to me, she was like, ‘I think that if anybody would make it happen, you would.’”
GCHS Principal James Mireles said that DeLeon definitely helped make it happen.
“She would solicit funds during lunch,” Mireles said.
DeLeon said she also went to every classroom in the building.
“And unless the door was closed, I would go in there,” she said.
Before she knew it, her persistence had paid off and she ended up with $150 — enough to pay for the brick and have $50 left over. After attempting to give the extra money to Dunsworth’s mother, Angie, who told her to keep it, DeLeon came up with another way to honor her friend — one that would allow her, in a sense, to walk across the stage at graduation.
“I decided we should get bracelets for the entire senior class to wear on graduation day, and they are going to say, ‘Miranda Dunsworth: Always with the class of 2015,’” DeLeon said, adding that she wanted to find some way for Miranda to be there. “I wanted to figure out a way that we can still remember her and still bring her with us, and I thought the bracelets were perfect.”
DeLeon also made a YouTube video that pays tribute to her friend.
“Miranda’s mom let me borrow Miranda’s camera, with all of her pictures on it that people haven’t seen,” DeLeon said. “We played it at lunch yesterday, for the first time. And during my lunch shift, and what I’ve heard from other lunch shifts, is the entire cafeteria got silent, and that doesn’t happen during lunch.”
DeLeon said that she has gotten a lot of positive feedback from it.
“Just random people are coming up to me and saying, ‘I didn’t even know Miranda, and that video touched me,’” DeLeon said. “And they’re saying, ‘I think it’s so cool that you guys are trying to remember her that way.’”
And Miranda’s paver brick will be surrounded by her loved ones.
“Miranda’s grandfather, Roger Almos, passed away recently and through part of his estate — and it gives me goosebumps to think about it — they are purchasing 11 bricks for all of his grandkids. They want all of their bricks together with Miranda’s,” Reed said.
Reed said that all of the proceeds from the bricks go toward different projects at the school. One plan, she said, is to use the funds to purchase some covered seating areas or benches out by where the school buses drop off and pick up students.
“For people when they’re waiting, just to have a little protection or a nice place to sit,” Reed said.
There are currently 150 to 160 engraved bricks, but Reed hopes to fill the entire area with them.
“There’s space in one area alone for about 4,000, so this isn’t a one-time project. It’s ongoing,” she said.
She anticipates that Miranda’s brick, which will include her name, the inscription “in loving memory,” and her class’ graduating year of 2015, will be placed during Christmas break.
“Our hope is that when the students return Jan. 6, that the bricks will be in place. So Miranda gets to be with us that second semester, definitely,” Reed said.
For more information about the paver bricks, contact Reed at (620) 805-5400 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.