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ACMA, Beaverton, UT mourning loss of Haruka Weiser

TIMES PHOTO: ERIC APALATEGUI - The reader board at ACMA has turned into a memorial for Haruka Weiser, who was murdered April 3 at the University of Texas, where she had won a full-ride dance scholarship.A week after Haruka Weiser was positively identified as a homicide victim at the University of Texas in Austin, her family, friends and former classmates continue to grieve back home in Beaverton.

“Haruka resides permanently in the soul of ACMA,” Principal Michael Johnson wrote Tuesday in a note to families of the Arts & Communication Magnet Academy in Beaverton, where Weiser graduated in 2015 as one of the school’s most promising dancers before going off to UT on a full-ride scholarship.

“Ours is a school community that is known for its inclusiveness, respect and love,” Johnson wrote, noting that their response to Weiser’s violent death “will further define who we are when met with loss and sadness.”

COURTESY OF WEISER FAMILY - Haruka Weiser's former classmates and staff at Beaverton's Arts & Communication Magnet Academy have established a scholarship in her memory. Donations may be made through ACMA's page on the Beaverton School District website.The reader board in front of ACMA, located at 11375 S.W. Center St., reads “HARUKA FOREVER IN OUR HEARTS” and has become a growing memorial where students, staff and community members have left ribbons, candles, flowers, balloons, and personal memorabilia and notes devoted to the slain 18-year-old.

Students also are sharing messages on a memory wall and bulletin board inside the school.

The school’s students also will host a celebration of “Haruka’s Light” in front of ACMA beginning at 7 p.m. this Sunday.

Dance West, the pre-professional company Weiser belonged to at ACMA, will dedicate its annual concert performances to Weiser’s memory. Those performances will be held April 28-May 1.

ACMA also is accepting donations on its website for a new scholarship in her honor and students also are making a video about her.

“She was such an amazing person and I’m lucky enough to have spent time with her,” said Delphine Chang, a former classmate at ACMA.

“She was just a phenomenal human being ...” added Amelia Carroll, another close friend.

Her college community in Austin also has been mourning as well as taking steps to promote campus safety. The sole suspect in Weiser’s death is in custody as the investigation continues.

UT students and staff took part in a walk along the pathway where Weiser was attacked, and the university also has established an official memorial fund in her name with the support of her parents.

Weiser’s family has requested privacy but has communicated publicly with statements through the university and a Facebook page called “Honoring Haruka.”

On a social media post, a family representative recently wrote: “We remain steadfast in our desire to honor Haruka’s memory through kindness and love, not violence.”

Last week, in a statement read by UT Austin President Gregory Fenves, the family said in part: “Perhaps the last thing she would want is to be the poster child for any cause, and yet as we struggle to understand why she was killed, if her death can somehow make it safer for a young woman to walk home, it will all prevent another assault or murder.

“Then, at least, we can find some meaning in an otherwise senseless and tragic death.”

At a news conference on April 7, hours after Weiser’s death was confirmed, Johnson and Julane Stites, ACMA’s director of dance, held a press conference in the foyer of the school’s performing arts center.

“Twenty-four hours ago, this was a school holding its breath. Today our exhale is filled with sadness and grief,” Johnson said. “We’re a small school, and that means we know each other really well.”

Stites said Weiser was “a dancer in her soul” and a beloved student at ACMA who last visited over the winter break.

“I’ve never seen her happier,” Stites said.

Pamplin Media Group news partner KOIN 6 contributed to this report.

By Eric Apalategui
Beaverton Reporter
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