The first day of school started out tragically on Sept. 3, 2013, when 14-year-old Violet Jia Liang was struck and killed by a dump truck while walking to C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute.
Kwabena Yafeu, principal of Elia Middle School, down the street from C.W. Jefferys, was giving an interview to CBC Metro Morning regarding the recent rash of shootings over the summer in the Jane Street and Finch Avenue area, home to many students who attend the two schools, when he received word his former student had been killed right in front of the school at Sentinel Road and Lamberton Boulevard.
"It was devastating not just for me, but for the entire staff," he said. "There was a cloud over our building for a good while."
Though she had graduated from Elia, Violet frequently went back to help teachers with sorting papers and other tasks, Yafeu said, adding the young girl always appeared happy.
The tragedy was talked about during a school assembly welcoming Elia's 440 students in grades 6 to 8 back after summer break.
Shortly afterwards, the student council launched a purple ribbon campaign for Violet, with proceeds going to her family. Elia students joined C.W. Jefferys students for a candle light vigil, and received a blessing from members of the Buddhist community.
A crossing guard was later stationed at the intersection where Violet was killed.
While the school year started out on a tragic note, Yafeu is hoping it will end on a bright one with a community fair Saturday, June 7, to celebrate Elia Middle School's 50th anniversary.
The celebration will be held from noon to 6 p.m., with an official ceremony at 3:30 p.m. Activities will range from sports competitions to face painting, from free dance lessons to playing on bouncy castles. Food and refreshments will also be available.
Performers will include alumni Jully Black and YTV's Jordan Francis, Elia Steel Band, Elia Glee Club, Elia African Drum and Dance Ensemble, and C.W. Jefferys Drum Line.
Violet will be remembered during the official ceremony, Yafeu said, adding thanks will given to those who provided support to her family.
"The 50th anniversary is very special and it's about the larger community, our neighbours," he said. "We move on on a positive note."
The driver of the dump truck was charged with careless driving and failure to yield to a pedestrian.
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