FORT COLLINS, Colo. — An unthinkable tragedy in Fort Collins is bringing the community together after two children took their own lives in the past week.
The family of one of the victims said bullying took their young daughter’s life. They hope her story will help end bullying.
Children in an east Fort Collins neighborhood spent their Sunday evening holding a candlelight vigil and balloon launch in memory of classmate Ariana Cordova. The 11-year-old Lincoln Middle School student committed suicide last week.
“She started being bullied when she was in second grade,” her older sister Isabella Cordova said. “It wasn’t until she came home with a broken arm that we had to figure out what happened.”
The girl’s family said she showed signs of bullying and depression in the past. She was put through counseling and programs. Her sister said Ariana was not showing any signs of suicide before her death.
“There are people on her bus that said she was counting down days but she never let any of us know. She acted like everything was fine,” Isabella said.
Cordova is not the only one. A second Fort Collins middle school student also took his own life during the weekend. The11-year-old Blevins Middle School student died Saturday night. His family has asked to keep his identity private.
The two deaths are raising new questions about the way schools handle bullying.
Cordova’s family said Lincoln Middle School was very good at handling situations where Ariana did not feel comfortable, including allowing her to take a course online. Isabella said more still needs to be done though.
“I feel like it’s really bad, but it kind of goes unnoticed because there are all these signs and slogans saying no bullying, this is a no bully school, but overall nothing has changed. Everybody says what they want to say and do what they want to do without getting in trouble for it,” she said.
She does not think more punishment for bullies is necessarily the answer though.
“Those people are always going to have to live with that guilt on top of them and have the burden of what they said and what they did and I don’t think the best way to get that across is to make them feel that same way too because it’s just this endless cycle that needs to stop,” Isabella said.
Ariana’s family now hopes their story will be a wake-up call for schools to implement real changes and serve as a message to other kids that asking for help is always the right answer.
“If they’re not going to listen to me then imagine my little sister dancing in the sky wherever she is looking down on you saying that it’s going to be OK. You can make it through this,” she said.
There will be a candlelight vigil for both young people Tuesday from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. outside Colorado State University’s B.W. Pickett Equine Center in Fort Collins.
The families are raising money to cover unexpected medical and funeral costs: