NORTH KINGSTOWN—On Sept. 3, 10-year-old Forest Park Elementary School student Elise Jackson tragically lost her battle with a rare auto immune disease that required a lung transplant which never came.
In the last week, the faculty, staff and students at the school have come together to celebrate a life cut too short.
“We supported our children to do productive things with their grief,” said Wendy Amelotte, principal at Forest Park Elementary. “[Elise’s parents] Margaret and Gordon allowed us to make a board for her funeral, a quilt of all hand prints from her class.”
“The Jackson family really allowed the school to be involved, and people here really needed to do something with their grief,” she added.
Over the past several months, while Elise strongly waited at Hasbro Children’s Hospital for a lung transplant, the students at Forest Park Elementary did everything they could to support their friend.
“Our school has been truly rallying around Elise through her struggles, waiting for her lung transplant,” said Amelotte. “We had put a fundraiser on in May, and students wore purple t-shirts and rubber wristbands several times to show support. We were still sending messages up to her at the hospital.”
Many have reflected during the past number of weeks on Elise’s life, an indomitable spirit willing to help anyone she met.
“She was an amazing person and friendly with everybody,” said Amelotte. “She worked hard in school, but always had her smile and was willing to tackle the next problem that she faced. She had more friends than her family even realized until her passing.”
“There was no one she wouldn’t extend her hand to,” she continued. “We are that welcoming in our spirit and she really was as well.”
Even the driver on the bus which Elise took to and from school decorated his vehicle with purple ribbons to commemorate Elise’s character. Amelotte expressed her gratitude for the faculty, staff and students at for their brave response to such a tragic situation.
“We responded from our heart,” said Amelotte. “Forest Park is an amazing school community and my staff works well together to support not only our educational mission, but also making sure our kids are supported throughout their whole life. I am lucky to lead that team, they are an amazing group.”
Superintendent of Schools Philip Auger praised the community at Forest Park Elementary School, and in particular Amelotte, last week for their efforts at consoling Elise’s family, friends, and peers.
“What struck me going to [Elise’s] wake was how much her family talked about Forest Park being a part of their family,” said Auger. “It had a great impact on me seeing the outpouring of emotion from that community.”
“[Amelotte] called all the parents of that grade herself, which is a lot of extra work on her behalf,” he added. “She did a great job [with her] leadership, and it is impressive to see how much our elementary schools are a part of that community effort.”
The community at Forest Park Elementary School will continue to remember Elise and her life in the coming weeks. On Sept. 25, students will plant a purple-flowered bush on elementary school grounds in Elise’s memory.
“There are people that want to make sure her family knows that Elise’s smile will be passed on,” said Amelotte.