A Wakefield High School freshman named Jorge Chavarria Rodíguez died Thursday evening, according to several sources.
The 16-year-old attended Barcroft Elementary School and Kenmore Middle School and had just started his 9th-grade year at Wakefield, per an email from Wakefield Principal Peter Balas to the school community.
“Jorge was a beloved member of the Wakefield, Kenmore, and Barcroft families, and impacted the lives of many of our students and staff members,” Balas said in the email, which Arlington Public Schools provided to ARLnow. “He was excited and happy to join the Wakefield family, with staff recalling his genuine smile.”
This marks the second death of a Wakefield student this calendar year. APS confirmed on Monday, a school holiday, that Jorge was not on school grounds at the time of his passing.
Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage said police found a deceased teen last Thursday at an apartment building in the 5100 block of Columbia Pike. Officers were dispatched just before 8:30 p.m. on Thursday for the report of an unresponsive person on the ground.
First responders reported that the person was dead upon their arrival on scene, according to scanner traffic.
Now, ACPD is conducting a death investigation and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine cause and manner of death. She noted a preliminary investigation “has not revealed an ongoing threat to the community related to this incident.”
In a GoFundMe page created by Jorge’s mother, Luz, she writes in Spanish that she is living through the worst pain a mother can experience. She says her biggest wish is to give him the final goodbye he deserves as a beloved son.
An English-language description below describes Jorge as “a happy and playful child, a good student and an excellent son.”
“My heart is broken knowing that his dreams will not come true and that his life was short,” she says. “I thank you in advance for your expressions of affection and collaboration. I wouldn’t wish this pain on anyone. May my little Jorge rest in peace.”
Over the weekend, a tribute to her son, made of flowers and saint candles, started growing around a tree across the street from the Columbia Pike Plaza shopping center. The GoFundMe, meanwhile, has circulated on social media and received some 265 donations, totaling more than $13,000 of the $25,000 goal, as of publication.
When a community loses a child , we come together to support the best we can. Jorge Rodriguez Descanso en Paz. Please consider donating to help his family with funeral expenses. @KeyPta @EscuelaKeyAPS @HBWProgram @YorktownHS @APSKenmore
— #TiredTeacher (@pondfamily) September 24, 2023
The Arlington County Board briefly discussed the 16-year-old’s passing on Saturday.
Reading from texts he received, Board member Takis Karantonis said it was possibly an overdose, amid attempts by Chair Christian Dorsey to interject.
“Whatever the circumstances, it’s a tragic thing, and I’m really devastated and heartbroken about this,” Karantonis said.
Dorsey cut the the discussion short, saying that “resources are going to be made available to the students next week [and] details are not known at this time.”
In a statement, community activist Janeth Valenzuela said adults and responsible citizens need to act quickly or risk losing more children to death and addictions.
“We want to make changes, now,” she said. “Not tomorrow, today. Let us not allow this death to be one more of others, let us use this pain that burns our soul to gain momentum and defend our children and the children of our community with our claws.”
Also after Jorge’s death, the Arlington Council of the League of United Latin American Citizens — a national organization advocating for Latino interests — and the Arlington branch of the NAACP issued a joint statement.
They said the county and APS should immediately hold an emergency meeting, implement “comprehensive and modern solutions to eliminate drug use” and overhaul after-school programming.
“Government agencies, healthcare providers, civic organizations and other community stakeholders must begin to receive the proper resources, funding, and information to combat the deadly crisis effectively. This starts with an action-oriented meeting with all of us,” said Christopher Concepcion, president of the LULAC Arlington Council.
February’s fatal overdose at Wakefield prompted some changes in county and school operations as well as the reopening of a youth treatment rehabilitation option this summer.
For its part, APS hired more substance use counselors and stocked its halls with the opioid-reversal nasal spray Narcan, among other changes. Still, teachers told ARLnow that they do not feel heard by administrators when they report concerns about students or refer them for evaluations.
Arlington County recently agreed to place four county behavioral health specialists in the high schools and discussed how the parks department could update its youth programming.
NAACP Arlington branch President Mike Hemminger emphasized the need for better after-school programming. This echoed calls earlier this year from Arlington Schools Hispanic Parents Association, of which Valenzuela is a leader.
After the death of 14-year-old Sergio Flores earlier this year, several parents reportedly pleaded for information about programs, revealing a chasm between the long list of county offerings and what the community knows about and can access.
“Our kids have no trusted safe space in our community,” Hemminger said. “They are roaming the streets, being harassed and pressured into drugs because there’s nothing to do.”
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Children’s Weekday Program (CWP) is a non-profit preschool rooted in a play-based philosophy. We focus on developing a love of learning and exploration, cooperation, empathy, and independence.
Our caring and experienced educators create opportunities for children 16 months to 5 years old to play, learn, and grow in a nurturing environment of child-centered and developmentally appropriate experiences.
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The Optimist Club of Arlington is holding its 77th annual Christmas tree sale!
This year, the tree sale will be held at the Knights of Columbus (5115 Little Falls Road). The lot opens for sales on November 24th. The Optimist Club is selling small and large trees ranging from tabletop size to 10 foot tall trees! Wreaths, garland, tree stands, and White House Christmas ornaments will also be for sale.
100% of all proceeds go towards helping Arlington County youth.
For more information, please visit the Arlington Optimists website at https://optimistclubofarlingtonva.org/.
Holiday Art Show featuring artists: Peter Fitzgerald, Claire Plante, Alanna Rivera, and Suzy Scollon. At the Barcroft Community House, 800 South Buchanan St., Arlington, VA. Dec. 8 from, 2 PM to 8 PM and Dec. 9 from 10 AM to
2023 Christmas Tree Sales Begin
Saturday, December 2
Get your holiday decorating off to the right start this year! We will be selling 150 Fraser firs, freshly cut and delivered from Sparta, North Carolina.