AKRON, Ohio - A little more than a year after losing a classmate along with three other members of her family to a house fire, students at Seiberling Community Learning Center gathered to pay tribute to her and dedicate a very unique part of the school in her memory.
Shanice Riley, 8, died along with her sister Anilya Riley, 9 and their parents Omar and Shirley Wallis in the December 3, 2016 fire at their rented home on East Tallmadge Avenue.
On Thursday, classmates were given an opportunity to share their memories during an assembly in which Emmalynn Yancheck and others wrote thoughts about their loss.
"I wrote how I liked her smile and how she was such a nice friend and was never mean to anyone. I also wrote how her smile would brighten up everyone," said Yancheck.
The school also dedicated a unique sensory room in her memory, the entrance bearing a plaque with Shanice's smiling picture.
"In all of our memories of Shanice, her smile is consistent and so they really wanted that to be a part of it," said Principal Jennifer Moff.
Inside the room is filtered lighting, objects and textures intended to help put students at ease, and a dry erase board on which they can share their thoughts,
"It gives all kinds of kids a chance to reset, to decompress. We have some students who have diagnosed sensory issues. We have other students who just might need a little bit of a break and this room is designed to really give that space that they need to get themselves ready to learn and get back to their room," said Moff.
"For so many kids they feel bad about crying or they feel bad about their reaction and I just think seeing Shanice's picture on the plaque every day is good for them. Its good for their healing. It's good for them even at this young age to understand that grief is a process," added Moff.