The North Colonie community gathered late last week at the Southgate Elementary playground to see the result of two years of work done in memory of Ashton Jojo.
For two years, Southgate faculty has been working with Ashton’s mother, Deborah Jojo, to create better access to the school’s playground in Ashton’s memory. Their work evolved into a walkway that was dedicated to the Southgate student Friday, May 1. Students who were in Ashton’s class, now in eighth grade, along with Ashton’s parents and school officials, attended the dedication.
Simeen Tabatabai, Ashton’s fifth grade homeroom teacher, said that from her classroom that overlooks the playground, she had been watching the sidewalk progress into “Ashton Jojo Way” for the past two years.
“As I look out my window this spring… the through that came to my mind was, how fitting. What a fitting memorial for Ashton,” Tabatabai said.
Ashton died in June 2012 just after her 11th birthday. She and her family were vacationing at a resort in Orlando, Fla., when she was electrocuted while trying to retrieve her mini putt golf ball from a shallow pond.
According to a lawsuit brought against the Orange Lake Resort in Florida, the resort did not properly ensure electrical circuitry and pumps were properly installed, nor did the resort hire a properly qualified electrician.
On Friday, Tabatabai, Southgate counselor Penny Bonanno and Principal Jerri Lynne Dedrick all recalled Ashton’s caring spirit, which is why Tabatabai felt the walkway is a fitting memorial. The sidewalk will provide better access to the playground for students with disabilities. The garden sitting area at the entrance will also provide a getaway space for students in Southgate’s Academic Skills class.
The school faculty also remember Ashton’s penchant for wearing bright colors, specifically green and purple, which can be seen in the bright purple installations bordering the walkway.
“Everything here is purple. Her fashion sense would be very pleased,” said Bonanno.
Students from Ashton’s fifth grade class, now attending Shaker Junior High School, were bussed to Southgate to attend the ceremony. At the end of the dedication, the students were given rocks to sign, write a message Ashton, or write about a favorite memory.
“What you will remember about Ashton is that she had a truly caring and giving spirit. This is what we are here to honor, to celebrate… a student who always looked out and cared for others,” said Dedrick.