Alderman, HVA students honor talented senior
Farragut Alderman Scott Meyer addressed a recent community tragedy during the Thursday, Oct. 8, Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, which he specifically tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tragedy of Elise Kersch, Hardin Valley Academy senior student/athlete (volleyball), was Meyer’s topic, having known and mentored her as a volleyball parent through K2 Volleyball Club alongside his two daughters.
The 17-year-old apparently took her own life the previous weekend.
“I want to take one minute to honor … Elise Catherine Kersch, a teenager I mentored — one of many I mentor,” Meyer said. “She did not live in Farragut, but impacted many (in our community).
“She played volleyball for Hardin Valley Academy, and was an elite volleyball player for the K-2 Volleyball Club. She was a senior, she was a straight-A student. She partnered with NASA on her science project. She was smarter beyond her years,” he added.
“She flew her first solo flight last month; traveled to 21 countries; she was beautiful. You could see her face on the cover of any Vogue magazine.”
He then combined Elise’s circumstance with a warning.
“This past weekend she (apparently) took her own life,” he said. “We believe it was because of the stress of virtual school, isolation, lockdown and limited volleyball.
“In addition to asking us (to continue with) social distancing and washing hands, I urge every parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin — anyone with a teen in their life — please, please know what is going on with them,” he added. “Know what is going on in their hearts. Be persistent, keep asking and be annoying.”
Meyer also was one of several in the Farragut community who had posted about Elise earlier in the week on Facebook.
“Over the next days, all who knew Elise should take solace in knowing that although she did not change the world like she had dreamed, this amazing young woman changed the world nonetheless, and we are better for it,” Meyer wrote.
HVA principal Dr. Rob Speas also had posted about the tragedy on social media, noting late last week how the school’s “Spirit Rock” — installed earlier this year near the campus’ main entrance to be painted for promotion of various activities, causes and individuals — had been transformed into a memorial for Elise.
“I know we are hurting as we mourn and grieve for our sweet Elise,” Speas stated. “She was truly a star that burned bright and shared her light on all around her. Her impact will be felt by all for the days that come. Much has been said about the incredible memorial created by students to honor Elise. While we hurt, we must begin to heal.
“A difficult part of healing is moving forward and returning to normalcy,” he added. “We don’t forget our love for Elise and we focus on our love for one another and remember. We remember by the way we live, by the way Elise lived — full of excitement, energy, passion and love. The HVA rock will be painted on Thursday of Fall Break as we heal together.”
Remain a memorial?
While Speas made note on Twitter the rock would be repainted this week during Knox County Schools’ Fall Break, that Friday, Oct. 9, announcement was met with outcry on social media asking the rock to remain a memorial.
“Painting over the rock isn’t gonna make us turn to normalcy,” Nyla Marie (@nylamarie215) stated. “The fact that she’s gone is still going to sit with us. Why can’t we honor her? I don’t understand.”
HVA student Kaycie Hawkins responded, “We got over 3,500 signatures. That’s EVERYONE in the school and over 1,000 more people. The whole school loves Elise. You can paint the rock but that isn’t gonna ‘help us move on,’ it’ll just make us angry.”
Hawkins was referring to a petition that was started by HVA student Laila Simone on change.org, asking for the memorial rock to remain. It had garnered 3,631 signatures as of this past weekend.
Hardin Valley community leader Kim Frazier, whose two sons attend HVA, serves on the HVA Foundation Board. She had secured the “Spirit Rock” for the school earlier this year, and has since offered to secure another one, which would allow Elise’s memorial to stand.
“I will absolutely do whatever is needed to help the students, teachers and families in our community honor Elise,” she said.
Speas also stated, “We have received many questions and inquiries about the rock at HVA … e-mail me for questions”at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
He had not yet responded to a farragutpress e-mail for clarification on the matter as of deadline Tuesday, Oct. 13.
Celebration of Life, Legacy
Elise’s obituary also enumerated the many accomplishments in her too-brief life. A Celebration of Life service was held at Click Funeral Home in Farragut Wednesday, Oct. 7, at which the HVA and K2 Volleyball players served as honorary pallbearers.
To honor the memory and dedication to the sport Elise Kersch loved, Volley4life has created a Memorial Scholarship Fund, which will provide one or more scholarships to deserving athletes every year who normally could not afford to play club volleyball.
Donations, which were up to $8,500 as of Monday, Oct. 12, may be made at https://www.gofundme.com/elise-kersch-memorial-scholarship-fund.