The 17-year-old girl who ended her life Tuesday night at a Caltrain crossing was identified today by friends as Sonya Raymakers, a senior at Gunn High School who had been accepted at New York University for next fall.
Shock spread through the Gunn and Palo Alto school community as word spread of the death when she stepped in front of a northbound train at 9:55 p.m. at the West Meadow Drive crossing.
The girl reportedly left a note.
Gunn High School Principal Noreen Likins sent an email to the Gunn community Wednesday morning.
"The loss of this student has hit our community very hard. What for seniors is usually a joyous time of celebration has turned into a time of sadness. This is usually the most stressful time of the school year for students as they get ready for final examinations," Likins wrote.
She said that the entire counseling staff has been made available to support grieving students and staff members.
"Recognizing that many students will not be able to concentrate on school work at this time, teachers will be as flexible and supportive as they can be to ensure that we get our students through to the end of the school year safely and successfully," Likins wrote.
She concluded: "Please reassure your student that their health and welfare is much more important than anything else right now. We stand ready to help and support you in any way we can in the difficult task of helping students navigate these teen years."
Raymakers was heavily involved in theater, working in costume-design, and for years had been involved in creative writing. She won first place in the Palo Alto Weekly's annual short-story contest for her tale "Nighthawk" when she was in the sixth grade at JLS Middle School.
The Oracle, Gunn's student newspaper, featured her in an article published March 16 about how she designed her own clothes and jewelry.
Her Facebook page lists nearly 370 friends.
Trains were halted in both directions for more than an hour until one was allowed through slowly, heading north on the southbound track, after 11 p.m. A southbound passenger train was allowed through at a moderate speed shortly before midnight, as a soft rain began to fall in large drops.
The crossing is where "JP" Blanchard, 17-year-old Gunn student, died in an apparent suicide May 5, a day after a 29-year-old woman, Heather Russell, sat down in front of a train some distance south.
"I am completely shocked and speechless," Philippe Rey, executive director of the Adolescent Counseling Service, which provides counseling for Palo Alto area students and young persons, said of Sonya's death.
Rey said he met briefly with Palo Alto school Superintendent Kevin Skelly today and "all either of us could do was stand there an look down at the ground -- we didn't know what to say."
COMMUNITY FORUMS SCHEDULED:
A panel of experts will discuss "Breaking the Stigma: Adolescent Depression" Thursday, June 4, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Cubberley Auditorium, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. A second forum is scheduled for June 18 in Menlo Park.