It is a tragedy when any young person is the victim of gun violence. Yet, Hannah’s death is particularly impactful to many in the City Year community. This year at Santee Education Complex, Hannah worked primarily with AmeriCorps Team Leader, Eileen Barker. Hannah was a regular attendee of Santee’s Extended Learning Time (afterschool program) and a familiar face to all of the Santee AmeriCorps members. As a tribute to Hannah, Eileen chose to powerfully deliver her to share her story of student impact at Spring Break and let the world know about Hannah’s beautiful spirit.
City Year Los Angeles AmeriCorps members and staff represent a small group of the countless community members impacted by Hannah’s death.
Below, Hannah's City Year, Eileen, shares some words about her beloved Starfish Student.
By Eileen Barker
Senior AmeriCorps member,
Rosenthal Family Foundation team at Santee Education Complex in South L.A.
You were so right when you said your name was going to ring in people's head like "Hannah Bells." I am so thankful you let me into your life. You may never know the extent of the impact you have made on me. You have given me purpose. Some people go their whole lives without knowing why they were give life in the first place.
You brought joy and light to everyone around you. You were not perfect, just like any other teenager. You are responsible for the gray hair on the back of my head; but it's that attitude and sass that draws people near you. It's one of the many reasons why I love you. You have grown so much in such a short time. I've literally seen you go from 0 to 100 real quick. Your growth is proof of the amazing things I KNOW you would have gone on to do.
I cannot say you would have left this world a better place, because you already have. "Big Nacho" to my "Nacho Cheese," you would have spread your joy and continued to inspire other students who like you were living in difficult circumstances. You took a two-hour bus to school every day. You didn't have a comfortable place to lay your head at night, but you still stayed after school and continued to push yourself.
Hannah Bell, you inspire me.
Your death to me is not just another statistic, you were my student. You were MY starfish. On April 27th, my own birthday, I lost my mentee, someone who was shaping her own future despite the odds against her; I lost my friend; someone who would make me laugh with her external facade of toughness, but internally was truly the softest most loving little girl. I thought I lost my purpose. You and the other students are the reason I get up in the morning and put on my stained, worn out uniform, despite the many factors that make a year of service so difficult.
Hannah Bell, you motivate me.
I thought I lost my purpose, but the day a 15-year-old little girl that has grown the most academically and socially out of all my students lost her life in the most unfair and unjustifiably tragic way, is the day you gave me the greatest birthday gift anyone can ever receive.
Hannah Bell, you gave me purpose.
You ignited a fire in my soul. For the rest of my life I will continue to fight for the day when no mother must cry for the premature loss of her daughter. For the day that young kids see that worth and love can be found in themselves instead of seeking acceptance and family in the streets. For the day that young black and brown kids believe they can achieve their wildest dreams through education. For the day when every child grows up to be an adult with the ability to love and have compassion for one another where they will no longer feel they have the right to take someone else's life away. Hannah Bell, this is what you gave to me and this world. You did and will continue to do the good and amazing things I told you were set out to do and the things you were starting to believe. Your life and death has inspired others like me, who hold the responsibility of working with the children that will build our future.
You have inspired me to love not only my other students, but to commit to Dr. King's push of agape love. The love that is not for profit, love that may not be reciprocated. I know if the tables were turned you would have fought for me. We will love that much harder, we will push that much further, and we will educate this world until we form the world you deserve.
I am here because of you. I will continue to fight because of you. You were my ripple in a time when I had lost the faith that I was making a difference.
Your City Year,