On September 7, Elliott Wakefield passed away from suicide at the age of 25.
Elliott was a deeply curious student of life, art, music, language, culture, and the profound injustice he saw so clearly all around him. He could brighten the day of any stranger, friend, or family member with his vivacity and loving sense of humor, while simultaneously teaching us elegantly about the injustices of the past and the striking inequality of the present that can be too easily forgotten and ignored. It was that same curiosity and concern for our world that drove Elliott to become a teacher. Over the past two years, Elliott taught in Puerto Rico, and had recently begun a Masters program at the NYU Steinhardt School while intern-teaching at Visitacion Valley Middle School, near San Francisco.
Steeped in critical pedagogy and diverse teaching experiences, Elliott saw clearly that, "Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world," (Richard Shaull, Foreward to Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed). Elliott expressed this understanding each day through his love and respect for his students and their contributions to their collective learning processes. His students felt it:
Elliott's death was a tragic shock to all who knew him, and we are all coming together to support each other as we grieve. An important part of this process is to celebrate his life by continuing the work he was dedicated to. For those who knew how passionate and skilled he was as an educator, we feel a deep loss for all the students that will no longer benefit from his life’s work, as well as for the ongoing struggle to provide every student in this world with a supportive, student-centered education that enables them to, “deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world."
His family and friends ask for your help in honoring Elliott by raising funds for organizations and schools that share Elliott's vision for a more equitable, transformative education system and a more just world. 100% of funds raised will be given to charitable organizations and/or schools in need. 0% will be kept by his family.
No final decisions have been made regarding specific organizations that will be supported, but please take a look at the following organizations his family is considering:
Visitacion Valley, California
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, October 6 at 2PM at The Church of the Redeemer, located at 5603 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21210. The service is open to all who wish to attend. For those who are unable to attend, a live-stream link will be provided on this page on a later date. A reception will follow the service at Gilman School's Centennial Hall, located at 5407 Roland Ave, Baltimore, MD 21210.
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