It’s been more than three years since Sierah Joughin’s life was abruptly taken, and her local alma mater wants to ensure she is remembered in perpetuity.
On Tuesday, members of the Evergreen Local Schools community gathered to pay tribute to the former student with the dedication of two trees, one planted in front of the property, one planted next to Door 13, the Evergreen High School athletic entrance. The ceremony took place between scheduled volleyball games, Joughin’s sport of choice.
A plaque donated by Select Stone Co. of Monclova, and placed with the trees reads: “In Memory of Sierah Joughin, Class of 2014.” It includes an etched volleyball in the school district’s team colors and her name in purple, Joughin’s favorite color.
“We thought it was a good time to dedicate the trees,” Evergreen Superintendent Eric Smola said. “Every family, every student who passes through the doors of Evergreen Local Schools is important to us, and when we lose one we lose a part of our heart as well. This dedication reminds us of the importance of every member of the Evergreen community and the importance of all of our family members. We hope that when people step foot on campus and see the plaque, they too will remember Sierah and the strength of her community.”
In fact, the Northwest Ohio Athletic League dedicated all volleyball games played Tuesday under its jurisdiction to Joughin.
Commissioner Ken Baumgartner said the NWOAL supported the volleyball contests in their commitment and recognition of Keeping Our Girls Safe (KOGS), an organization started by Joughin’s boyfriend, Josh Kolasinski, to provide self-defense classes to girls and women.
“Thanks goes to the coaches who created this opportunity, and the many fans who supported all our schools in the games,” he said.
Joughin was a 20-year-old Metamora resident and University of Toledo student when she was killed. James Worley, of rural Delta, was convicted of her murder and sits on death row at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution.
The trees – a weeping redbud and a Purple Rose of Sharon – were provided by Nil Gallagher of Metamora and donated by KOGS. The trees were planted at the high school about a year ago at the request of Kolasinski and his father, Bob.
“Volleyball was important part of her life, and (Josh) really wants her legacy to be felt, and to continue,” Nikki Kolasinski, Josh’s mother, said of Joughin. “In her short years here, she really lived life to the fullest. He wants everyone to live life every moment, and not to take it for granted, because it can be taken away.”
Beginning this school year, KOGS will offer self-defense classes to all female EHS students as part of the curriculum, and to female students at all NWOAL schools.
Sheila Vaculik, Joughin’s mother, said the dedication is a great gesture.
“Evergreen was a huge part of Sierah’s upbringing, and she made a lot of friends there,” she said. “Years and years down the road people won’t remember the story. So (the tree and plaque are) kind of a keepsake, a reminder that we don’t want to relive what happened but we don’t want to forget either.”
Kolasinski said the Fulton County community has continued to show love and support for Joughin and for causes inspired by her.
“Truly, we live in an amazing place,” she said. “We truly live the old adage, ‘Love thy neighbor,’ and we’re just not going to let evil win.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.