Community members gathered Friday for a candlelight vigil for a student who died on campus on Wednesday.
The student, McKenna Martin, was studying writing for screen and television, and served as a residential assistant at New North Residential College. The vigil was organized by the Office for Residential Education.
Dean of Religious Life Varun Soni began the vigil with a moment of silence for Martin. In his remarks, he called Martin a role model and campus leader.
“When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight,” Soni said, quoting poet Khalil Gibran.
Soni’s remarks were followed by a speech from Vice President of Student Affairs Ainsley Carry.
“She is in our spirit, in our community,” Carry said in his speech. “[Her] energy is always with us.”
Carry said that the University has been in contact with the Residential Education community and students at the School of Cinematic Arts to ensure that grieving students have access to the care they need.
He emphasized that help is available for those who need it. Students can contact the Engemann Student Health Center to reach counselors at 213-740-7711, and staff members can contact the Center for Work and Family Life at 213-821-0800.
Carry also mentioned the Trojans Care for Trojans program, which allows students and staff members concerned about their colleagues to anonymously submit online forms to bring those experiencing personal difficulties to the attention of USC Support & Advocacy.
“Anytime we lose a student, as a member of the Trojan Family, it’s a devastating blow to the student body,” Carry said. “If you need help, ask.”
Some attendees wrote messages to Martin’s family in journals that were passed around during and after the vigil.
Neelesh Bagrodia, a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering who attended the vigil, said he lived in Birnkrant Residential College on the same floor as Martin when they were both freshmen.
“She was sweet and caring, and she would always be there for you with hot tea,” Bagrodia said. “Our favorite day was when we went to the beach during the first week of school. We were just getting to know each other, but it was then that I found that I had a home away from home here.”
Joshua Shaw, a sophomore studying international relations and narratives studies who attended the vigil, said he was also Martin’s friend.
“Every time I saw her in the dining hall this year, I would have 10 to 30-minute conversations with her and she always left me with new ideas,” Shaw said. “She always had something to give, whether it be humor, ideas, music … she exuded positivity.”
Associate Dean of Religious Life Vanessa Gomez-Brake said in addition to Counseling Services, the University has more than 50 religious and spiritual leaders representing most faiths and worldviews who could serve as someone for those in need someone to speak with.
Soni said that grieving students have access to resources not only from the University, but also from the student community.
“The best support students have in times of tragedy is each other,” Soni said.
A celebration of Martin’s life will be held Monday at 7 p.m. in Norris Theatre, Soni said.