Lexie’ remembered on Earth Day at Pace West

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Date: 2009-04-28

KATHERINE GOTTHARDT

At Pace West School, Earth Day was also a day to remember Alexis "Lexie" Glover. Students, faculty and staff gathered in front of the school to plant a tree and garden in Lexie's name.

Lexie, a seventh-grader at Pace West, went missing from Central Library in Manassas on Jan. 7, sparking a massive search for the girl. Her body was found in a shallow creek near the McCoart Administration building in Woodbridge two days later.

The Earth Day ceremony brought life, color and music in honor of Lexie. Accompanied by sixth-grade language arts instructor "Mr. Billy" on acoustic guitar, 10 children from various grades sang "America the Beautiful."

Principal Mary Ellen Garduno said they would plant butterfly bushes because, "Alexis really liked butterflies." A tent full of butterflies will soon hatch and be set free near the bushes.

Garduno then invited students to come up and, one by one, plant a flower for Lexie.

"She was such a soft and quiet child," Garduno said. "Everyone felt they had to take care of her … like they were her protectors. Students, faculty and staff all worried about her."

Pace West is a public school for children K-12 with significant emotional and behavioral needs. About 100 elementary, middle and high school students are served by more than 22 teachers, counselors and staff.

Garduno said Glover was a selective mute. She would stop speaking, sometimes resorting to just crying. "It was and continues to be difficult for other students," Garduno said. "It stirred up a lot of emotions."

A high percentage of at-risk children have been abused, so they could relate to Lexie's experiences, Garduno said.

Lexie's teacher, Kecia Wolf, has worked with at-risk children for 15 years. "These are the students who need us the most," she said.

"These students have faced significant obstacles in their lives."

Students at Pace West look forward to coming to school, said Wolf. "They know we care for them and love them."

Fourth-grade science and math teacher Mike Coughenour said, "They're great kids. I enjoy coming to work every day."

Coughenour, who has taught at Pace West for seven years, worked with third-grade teacher Mary Claire Lindgren to coordinate an Earth Day display and poster contest in the cafeteria. Posters portrayed windmills, water power, solar power and even a wind turbine with a smiley face in the middle.

Gainesville-Haymarket Rotarian Marilyn Karp, a key coordinator in Haymarket's upcoming Earth Day celebration, was asked to judge the posters. She selected a drawing of pollution with a giant red "X" across it. She said the poster made a powerful statement.

Students at Pace West made other powerful statements on a bulletin board designed to post memories and thoughts of Lexie.

"Alexis was a beautiful young girl. I love her like a sister and know she [is] an angel," one posting read.

"Dear Alexis," began another note. "We are very sad that this happened to you but you need to know you are in a better place now. You may not know all of us, but we knew you and so did most of the school. … As I write this letter I think of you and how cool you are."

Ms. Brenda, one of Lexie's bus drivers, wrote, "You really touched my heart. And I will miss having you on my bus run. But I know you are with God now. And you are his precious little angel."

In the midst of flowers planted by her friends and classmates, Garduno placed a polished, rectangular stone inscribed with the words, "In loving memory, Alexis Glover, 1995-2009."

The stone also has an engraving of Lexie's face."So when you come up to plant your flower, you can look at her," Garduno said.

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