CEDAR SPRING, Mich. — When was the last time you really listened, with your heart?
The Cedar Springs High School community learned this week that together, if we take the time to listen and talk things through, real healing can happen in a painful situation.
“Our slogan is, ‘Once a red hawk, always a Red Hawk,” said David Dipiazza, a student at Cedar Springs High School.
Dipiazza’s best friend, Alex Collins, is a Red Hawk.
They’d gone to school together since kindergarten and were as close as brothers.
Dipiazza graduated high school this past spring – but Collins wouldn’t get that chance.
That’s because he took his own life.
“He was a happy kid, a good kid,” said Marlou Collins, Alex’s mother. “I would have never anticipated that he would have taken his own life.”
It’s left a hole in his family’s heart that will never be filled.
In the yearbook that year, Alex had his own page as a fallen Red Hawk; the school wanted to make sure he was remembered.
But when his parents, Marlou and Chris, asked to buy a page for their senior this year – something every parent of a senior gets to do – the school initially wouldn’t let them.
Dipiazza wasn’t happy with that decision and made a TikTok in response, which quickly reached hundreds of thousands of people.
“It blew up,” Dipiazza said. “It was quite amazing to see all the love that we got, not only from Cedar Springs, but from Rockford, from Tri-County, from Alabama, Kansas. I’ve even gotten several from Egypt.”
The Red Hawk community had just grown exponentially.
But Dipiazza and the Collins family don’t want people to get mad about the situation because they managed to come to an agreement with the school board.
The school took the time to really listen to Alex’s parents.
“We are grateful for the willingness of Mr. And Mrs. Collins to work with the district to find a way to honor Alex with his classmates,” the school said in a statement. “Their request was different from how we have memorialized students in past editions of the yearbook. We listened to the Collins family, our students and members of our community. We will use what we have learned to better support our students and families in the future.”
Marlou Collins says the yearbook page is a big comfort – a big healing piece.
She and Chris want every parent to learn one major lesson from all this: Listening is important.