High school students build Day of the Dead altar honoring victims of violence

November 2, 2012

Cassidy Herrington

Evanston Township High School has celebrated Day of the Dead for the past six years by building an altar in the main lobby, but this year they have a particular intention in mind – loved ones lost to violence.

The altar, or ofrenda, is adorned with paper skulls, colorful flags and photos of family and friends. In the tradition of Day of the Dead, the ofrenda welcomes the deceased back to Earth with candles to light the way and food for the journey.

"The food is actually very important because they come back and eat their favorite food once again,” said Senior Sharon Cortez.

Cortez is a leader of the Latino QUEST student group, which started the Day of the Dead tradition to give Latinos a stronger voice in the school.

“There’s a lot of people who have gone through traumatic experiences with death, and this is actually something that can help people kind of heal from everything,” Cortez said.

Cortez said students at school are more involved in the project this year because of its theme.

Evanston Township High School made headlines last month when freshman Dajae Coleman was killed. Police said he was shot by a gang member in a case of mistaken identity.

“Because of what just happened there’s a lot of people who are trying to help out,” Cortez said.

School social worker, Aracely Canchola, said what happened to Coleman is unfortunate.

“We want to remember his life in a positive way and all other ones that they’ve lost to violence.”

The altar is a hopeful reminder they’ll be reunited.