Lily Morice was in attendance at a vigil for Makayla Chang on Saturday at Maffeo Sutton Park. Nanaimo RCMP announced May 18 that it believed it had found Chang’s body. Chang had been missing since March 22. (KARL YU/News Bulletin)

Community coming to grips with loss in Makayla Chang case

Nanaimo school district provides supports for students, friends hold vigil

Nanaimo residents are trying to come to terms after Nanaimo RCMP said it believed it found the body of missing teen Makayla Chang on May 18.

Chang, who was 16, was reported missing March 22 and her friends held a vigil for her Saturday afternoon at Maffeo Sutton Park. Attendees remembered Chang, signed a card, released balloons and set candles afloat.

Lily Morice, one of Chang’s friends, said there really isn’t a way to cope with the loss, but she and her peers have been finding solace with one another. Remembering the good times is part of that, Morice said.

“We were staying at her house for her birthday,” said Morice when reminiscing about one of her favourite memories. “Her grandma got us strawberry cheesecake and we ate [most of it] and she got really mad at us. It was just a really good time … things like that are the kind of things we’re going to remember her by.”

Chang attended Cedar Community and John Barsby secondary schools and the Island ConnectEd learn-at-home program and Nanaimo school district offered extra support to students last week, according to Bob Esliger, assistant school superintendent.

Esliger said additional counselling and child youth care and extra staff to support classroom teachers were called in on May 19. In general terms, students seemed sombre.

“On [May 19], mid morning, I sent a request out to principals that I wanted them to tell me what the climate was like and they said the students were quiet. Their feelings were internalized … it doesn’t mean they were busy on task doing their work,” said Esliger. “Some students needed to be in the counselling area and they were quiet.

“It wasn’t so much that they needed to talk about it, they just needed to come to grips with it.”

Esliger said the extra counselling will resume if needed.

Leona Horvath, parent and Barsby parent advisory council president, knew Chang, who had gone to school with her son. Students at the school have been impacted, she said.

“I know a lot of the girls were really worried and scared about the whole situation … you never want to lose anybody that you know or that you’ve grown up with,” said Horvath.

Nanaimo RCMP could not be reached for comment on the status of the investigation, but had previously stated that it wouldn’t provide additional information for the time being.

reporter@nanaimobulletin.com

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