PHS counselors meet tragedy with solace

Brandon L. Summers, Editor

Perry High School lost one of its own Saturday with the murder of Melany Barraza, a freshman.

"She was a kind of quiet girl, very sweet, sensitive. Beautiful," Tamara Valline, a PHS counselor, said. "She had a great love for her friends and her family. She enjoyed coming to school. She was a hard worker and wanted to do well in school. She had aspirations for her future."

She added, "Just a very nice girl. Kind, friendly."

The school's counselors have responded to the tragedy by providing solace to grieving students.

"We help provide grief support and services, and help support the students," Anne Horgen, a PHS counselor, said. "Kids are coming in with a variety of different emotions. Some students who were close to Melany, and others who were just affected by the loss."

Counselors are available to meet with students one-on-one in their offices, or in the school's library, where an additional office has been set up, Valline said.

"Or, if they sometimes just want to talk with each other, we let that happen or facilitate the conversation between them," she said. "We have some coloring pages and poster paper if they want to write a message or write about how they're feeling or color a picture, we have that for them."

Already, counselors have responded to questions and concerns from students, including many of Bazzara's friends.

"The kids are still processing the information," Horgen said. "Maybe they're a little bit still in shock, which is a normal stage of grief."

Valline has helped students through their grief before.

"I've been in this district for 20 years and over that time period we've definitely had some different tragedies," she said. "Each one's a little different. I don't remember having a double homicide any other time. It's a unique situation for us."

Students benefit from receiving the comfort, Valline said.

"A lot of times they just want to have somebody to talk to, a quiet place where they can go away from other students or the classroom to gather themselves and think, just take a time out," she said. "Most of the time, they just head back to class once they're feeling a little better. That will go on for a period of time."

These services are available indefinitely.

"We don't have a time limit, like we're just going to do this for two days and stop," Valline said. "We'll have services available to them for a long time."

The counselors, too, are grieving.

Valline described the incident Saturday, which resulted in the deaths of Bazzara and her mother, Lourdes Leake, as "horrific."

"I can't even wrap my mind around it very well," she said. "It's very sad."

A GoFundMe has been set up for Lourdes Leake and Melany Barraza by the family to cover funeral expenses.

An arrest has been made in the murder of Lourdes Leake and Melany Barraza.

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