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Beaverton's ACMA mourns young dancer

Haruka Weiser's death hits small campus hard, principal says

COURTESY OF THE WEISER FAMILY - Haruka Weiser was one of the most talented young dancers to come out of Beaverton's Arts & Communication Magnet Academy when she graduated last June.The close-knit Arts & Communication Magnet Academy is mourning the loss of one of their own as their worst fears were confirmed Thursday morning.

Last June, Haruka Weiser graduated from the Beaverton school with boundless talent as a dancer and student, and Thursday morning police confirmed it was her body found near a creek on the University of Texas campus in Austin.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - ACMA dance director Julane Stites and principal Michael Johnson speak during a press conference about former student Haruka Weiser, whom was killed in Austin, Texas earlier this week.
“Twenty-four hours ago, this was a school holding its breath,” Principal Michael Johnson said at a news conference on Thursday, just hours after she was positively identified as the victim of a homicide still under investigation in Austin. “Today our exhale is filled with sadness and grief.”

Julane Stites, the school’s director of dance, said Weiser was one of the most successful young dancers to come out of ACMA and its high-level Dance West program for pre-professional students, which she used as a springboard to win a full-ride dance scholarship to UT.

“She had many different offers, but that was the best one,” Stites said of Weiser’s scholarship options, one of the largest in ACMA history.

Stites said Weiser, 18, was equally talented in ballet and modern dance and could have forged a career in either. She called her former student “spirited” and “stunningly beautiful.”

Stites last saw Weiser a little more than three months ago, when the young dancer was home for the holidays, and said her former student seemed to be finding her way at the large Texas school.

“I’ve never seen her happier,” Stites said at the news conference.

Weiser’s assault and murder, which apparently occurred as she walked home from the UT drama department on Sunday night, has attracted national and even international attention. Among journalists attending Thursday’s news conference was a writer working for People magazine.

Johnson said the Beaverton School District sent several counselors to ACMA to help students and staff alike cope with the sudden loss.

“We’re a small school, and that means we know each other really well,” Johnson said of the 700-student options program for middle- and high-schoolers interested in the arts. Weiser attended all six years.

Weiser’s sister, Naomi, is an eighth-grader at the school. Their brother, Nobo, is a junior at Sunset High School. The family lives in northeastern Washington County.

Johnson also spoke directly to Stites’ dance students on Tuesday, when it was Weiser’s identification as the victim was not yet official but widely suspected.

He ended the talk by asking the students “to do what Haruka would want them to do, which is to dance.”

Because the news is still setting in, ACMA or the district has not yet set any plans to memorialize Weiser, Johnson said.

Related coverage:

Beaverton woman found slain at University of Texas

Austin police arrest 17-year-old in Beaverton woman's murder

Affidavit outlines case against Haruka Weiser's accused murderer

By Eric Apalategui
Beaverton Reporter
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