With the passing of Yanelí Hernandez, friends, family and staff recover by remembering the gentle person she was. Many friends and staff have said that Yanelí was an angel and as they cope with the loss, they feel better knowing that she will watch over them.
“Yanelí was all about kindness and love and she was very gentle,” said Heidi Frost, Yanelí’s Study Skills and freshman English teacher.
On Thursday, April 3, Yanelí passed away due to complications with leukemia. She had been in a coma and was pronounced brain dead on Tuesday. She died from an aneurism on Thursday. Yanelí would have celebrated her sixteenth birthday on October 7.
Yanelí lived in Mountain View with her siblings and mother, Leydali Amaya, who divorced from Yanelí’s father last year. Being one of five children, Yanelí took on a lot of responsibility for her family after the divorce.
Amaya remembers Yanelí’s smiling personality and what a helpful daughter she was.
“She was very caring and very happy,” Amaya said. “She was the joy of the house because she was the first who would wake up on weekends.”
Yanelí’s instructional assistant Hortensia Halsted, who had a lot of contact with Yanelí’s family, said in an e-mail that Yanelí had a “very supportive and united, loving family.”
At school, Yanelí had a very “tight knit group of friends,” but she also had many other friends around campus whose lives were touched by Yanelí’s kind heart, a heart that Frost thinks Yanelí may not have known was s influential in others’ lives.
Frost remembers one of the new kids remarking to her that Yanelí was the first to say “hi” to them at school. In another’s time of uncertainty and loneliness, Yanelí was there to make the right kind of simple gesture to make them feel welcome.
“She really took pride in her relationships with her friends,” Frost said. “Her friends, her family were all very important. … She got along with everybody, including the staff.”
Although Yanelí was quiet in class, she always tried to do her best.
“She was a very hard worker in school,” Frost said. “She really wanted to do well and took pride in that.”
Yanelí’s English teacher Kathy Sulaver said in an e-mail that Yanelí was a “conscientious student” who “persevered to meet her goals.”
As a friend to all, Yanelí never had a bad word to say about anybody. Halsted said that Yanelí “showed great respect for everyone around her.”
“When she greeted people, she always called them by their names even if she hardly knew them,” Halsted said. “That says a lot of who she was. She made a personal connection with individuals by do that simple gesture. It made us feel special and left us with a warm feeling inside.”
Being near Yanelí was always considered a “safe place to be,” according to Frost. To Frost, the way “the world responded to her presence” was what showed her character.
“The kids used to tease her [about be quiet] and it was because she was adorable and they all knew it,” Frost said. “They all wanted her attention. She would just kind of sit there and be all embarrassed not knowing that she was really doing anything.”
In Frost’s fifth period class, the period she had Yanelí, the students’ desks are positioned in scattered places around the room, Yanelí’s desk being up front at the white board. The students have decided to keep her desk its normal position and to place a photo of Yanelí above her desk.
With Yanelí gone, those who were affected by her presence remember her and keep her in their hearts always.
“I have tremendous admiration for her and will always remember how she touched my life as well as the lives of others,” Sulaver said. “It is a tremendous loss to our school community.”