‘In Spirit, They’re Going To Be There,’ Grandville H.S. Honors Students Who Never Made It To Graduation

Posted at 8:34 PM, May 29, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-29 20:34:07-04

GRANDVILLE, Mich. (May 29, 2014) Two Grandville High School students, who died this year, will be honored at graduation Thursday.

Ryan Fischer and Roman Aguilar were both listed in the school’s commencement program. The two seniors died within two months of each other. In March, Fischer died suddenly from an enlarged heart. Then, in May, Aguilar was killed along with his cousin in a car crash.

Chris VanderSlice, principal at the high school, said both families of Fischer and Aguilar will attend commencements. That they’ll honor their loved ones as they walk across the stage to collect their diplomas.

“They both have siblings that are at the high school here,” VanderSlice said. “Their siblings will come up on stage, accept their diplomas for their families, and their brothers.”

Prior to Fischer and Aguilar’s deaths the school had another loss. Alyssa Arends, a freshman, died from bone cancer. Even their leader, VanderSlice, is fighting a battle of his own. In January, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. His doctors told him he may need to take more than a year off of work, leaving him to wonder if he’d be there to hand out diplomas to the graduating class ,who’s shown courage and strength throughout the trials of this year.

“It’s going to be very emotional,”VanderSlice said. “Just this morning I started to tear up and my 11-year-old daughter saw me tearing up and sat down next to me and counseled me through how it’s going to be ok.”

VanderSlice spent Thursday morning preparing the auditorium at Resurrection Life Church for his student’s arrival. He said he practiced announcing each of their names.

Through every tragic loss, VanderSlice said his students and staff united, showing the community that their school lives up to their theme, ‘Got Grit.’

“It sure makes you proud as those students graduate and leave us and move on,” VanderSlice said. “I know that they’ll be successful, every one of them will, because of what they’ve learned through this experience.”

As for Fischer and Aguilar, VanderSlice said he sure that “in spirit they’re going to be there with us celebrating.”

Even after graduation, VanderSlice said the school will continue to honor the students they’ve lost this year. He said a memorial will be placed outside of the school for Alyssa, Roman and Ryan.