CVPA students, families commemorate victims six months after school shooting

It’s been six months since tragedy unfolded on the Central Visual and Performing Arts High School campus.
Published: Apr. 24, 2023 at 6:36 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - It’s been six months since tragedy unfolded on the Central Visual and Performing Arts High School campus.

“I’m coming to terms with it so to speak. At first, my mind and my heart [were] battling each other, and I recently approved her headstone, so it’s kind of making it real for me,” said Keisha Acres. “So, to be here with them, and they’re all smiles. It just helped.”

Acres is 15-year-old Alexzandria Bell’s mother, one of the victims of the school shooting. The other, 61-year-old Jean Kuczka, was a beloved teacher among students on campus.

And as part of the six-month anniversary, Bell’s family and friends honored her life with a balloon release at Laurel Hill Memorial Gardens. That’s where Acres’ daughter is buried.

“The pain of me knowing I’m going to go home at some point today without my child is very in the forefront of my mind,” said Acres. “[Others] have the opportunity to go home with their kid, so embrace it. Enjoy it, love it. Because in a blink of an eye it could be gone.”

Acres spoke with News 4 outside of campus earlier today after Acres took part in a day of healing with students on campus.

A spokesperson for St. Louis Public Schools sent News 4 the following statement:

Monday, April 24th marks 6 months since our community was rocked by tragedy. Central Visual and Performing Arts High School Principal Dr. Kacy Shahid and her school team are committed to not allowing that incident to define who they are as a school community. CVPA students wanted to acknowledge this day, and the school team supported them -- giving them the room to commemorate the day with intentional healing through a variety of activities -- artistic, athletic, and therapeutic.

Acres said there were opportunities for students to do things such as boxing, yoga, and meet with counselors. Students and faculty in attendance at school were also encouraged to wear purple in solidarity with Bell’s family.

Acres says her daughter would be thrilled to see how much support there continues to be for her to this day.

“We were trying to make it a little more fun versus emotional,” she said. “This is the most relaxed I’ve been since that day. Most times, I’m at home, possibly crying or just alienating myself from the world. But today was very therapeutic for myself.”

This anniversary also comes roughly a month after the mass shooting at the Covenant school in Nashville, Tennessee. Acres says it is frustrating to still see violence like this taking place in other schools and believes more needs to be done to address some of the root concerns with students’ mental health and access to guns in this country.

“[Students] want the adults to pay attention. They just want attention. The kids need attention. They just want someone to acknowledge their being. Acknowledge that they’re actually here, and they’re a person and that their actions matter and a lot of people don’t,” said Acres. “As far as the guns are concerned, it doesn’t just start with the kids. it starts with who sells them, who’s being held accountable for who sells the guns.”