Students want to help Lerma family


Four children are now without a mother. Could there be any sadder words?

“I had to think about what I would do without my mother,” says Washington High School sophomore Ruby Murillo. “It’s hard to imagine.”

Delia Lerma, who lived in the same South Bend neighborhood as Ruby, was killed last week while on what was supposed to be a quick trip to the store. Some of the circumstances still remain sketchy, and no arrests have yet been made.

It is a horrible tragedy.

“I started crying when I heard the news,” adds freshman Jasmyn Castro, who didn’t know the victim.

Then the 14-year-old wiped away her tears and decided to do something positive.

“My mother is raising money for the family with a dinner, and I decided I would help out, too — so the children would be able to have some Christmas gifts.”

So after talking it over with her friend Karen Simental, Jasmyn went to Washington Principal George McCullough to see if she could get her fellow students involved.

Of course, he said yes.

“We’re all about kids and family here,” he says.

So with her heart fluttering, Jasmyn addressed the entire school on the closed-circuit TVs in the classrooms.

That’s not an easy chore for anyone, let alone a 14-year-old.

She found her voice, though. She told the students and staff she would be collecting money for the Lerma family during the lunch periods.

“I was pretty nervous,” Jasmyn says.

But she believed in what she was doing.

“And she had the guts to do it,” says Martin Ramirez, another Washington freshman.

He is helping Jasmyn ask for donations. So are Karen and Ruby, along with Dianna Ilagor, Manuel Vargas and Ilse Luna Lara.

They sit outside the cafeteria at a table and politely let passers-by know their cause.

Heading into today, they have raised almost $200 for the Lerma children — three boys ages 12, 10 and 9 and a little girl, 3.

“I have seen the boys playing in the neighborhood,” Ruby says. “They are always very active, always having fun.”

But now they are missing their mother.

“We have all their sizes and hope to get them some clothes, too,” Jasmyn says.

She and her fellow Washington High School students are doing a noble thing as Christmas approaches. What better way for them to celebrate the season of giving — and caring.

“I think we all pull together as a community when something like this happens,” Karen says.

A benefit luncheon for Lerma’s family is being organized for this Sunday at the West Side Democratic Club at Ford and Warren streets. Jasmyn’s mother, Chenoa Santiago, is one of the organizers and she is still looking for volunteers (to help, call 574-208-0002). The food will be served from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., or whenever the food is gone.

“When my mother decided what she was going to do, I felt I needed to do something, too,” Jasmyn says.

She obviously has.

“I’m very proud of her,” Chenoa Santiago says. “Jasmyn is the oldest of my four children and I can’t imagine what it would be like for them if I was no longer around.

“That’s why I got involved, and it was very nice when Jasmyn said she wanted to help, too.”