In June, 2012, the North Colonie Central School district lost one of its students, 11 year old Ashton Jojo, who had just finished fifth grade at Southgate Elementary. Ashton’s family was vacationing in Florida, when she was electrocuted while trying to retrieve a mini putt golf ball from a shallow pond at the course.
“Ashton had a very big heart, and was known for always smiling and willing to lend a hand,” said Debbie Jojo, Ashton’s mother. “Most teachers knew who she was, even if she had never been in their class.”
For the past two years, Jojo has been working with Southgate Principal, Jerri Lynne Dedrick, fifth grade teacher, Simeen Tabatabai, and school counselor, Penny Bonanno, to create improved access for all students to the elementary school’s playground in the winter and spring months. The entrance to the sidewalk has since evolved into a garden-like seating area, and is expected to be a further benefit to students in the school’s Academic Skills Class, who might need a break away from the immediate playground. In addition, a sign, titled “Ashton Jojo Way” is at the entrance, permanently memorializing the school’s beloved student.
“This is a fitting memorial for a student who shared her joy with all of her fellow classmates and the entire Southgate community,” said Superintendent Joseph Corr.
A dedication ceremony was held on May 1, officially opening the sidewalk for student use. Students who were in Ashton’s fifth grade Southgate class in 2012 attended the ceremony, and wrote messages to Ashton on rocks that were placed throughout the garden.
“It was surprising that it was so elaborate,” says Debbie Jojo. “My original plan was a basic sidewalk with an archway. It involved into this big park-like setting. It was a great surprise.”
Mrs. Jojo thanks everyone who was involved in the effort, including Mr. Corr, Ms. Dedrick, Mrs. Bonanno, and Mrs. Tabatabai.
“The sidewalk will be a lasting legacy to a student who touched the entire Southgate community,” said Principal Dedrick. “This is a very appropriate tribute to a young woman who cared so much for her classmates and teachers.”
“It’s a place filled with happy memories and hope,” added Penny Bonanno.
Click here for a full photo gallery of the dedication.