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Published on March 23rd, 2017 | by Jaredan Levin

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Samo remembers Andre Zuczek

A somber mood permeated the Samo campus on Tuesday, March 21, the day after freshman Andre Zuczek, 15, died from wounds sustained Saturday, March 18, when he jumped from a third floor balcony.

Principal Antonio Shelton, Ed.D., informed the Samo community via email Monday morning that Zuczek had been hospitalized and was on life support. Later that afternoon, Shelton informed Samo that he had passed away.

In a statement sent out by Shelton, Zuczek’s parents revealed that he had tried the drug LSD, and that by divulging this, they hoped to spare other parents the agony of losing a child to drug use.

“Andre and a few friends got together on Saturday and tried the drug, acid. Things went badly very quickly as Andre had what is thought to be a ‘bad trip,’ and fell from a third floor apartment. He was rushed to the hospital where doctors tried very hard to save him,” the statement said. “We encourage you to talk about Andre with your kids, friends, your family and whoever else provides you support. In sharing, please be aware that hearsay and gossip can be very hurtful and can add more sorrow to the grief we are all feeling at this time.”

A graduate of Santa Monica Alternative School House (SMASH), Zuczek was remembered by his friends and Samo teachers alike as an affable, caring, respectful young man. English teacher Noemi Gonzalez remembers him as “the boy with the red hoodie and a great smile.”

“He never hesitated to do what I asked him to do. He was very respectful to everyone, towards his peers and myself,” Gonzalez said. “He always had a smile on his face, and was always very upbeat and positive. I never knew that there was anything wrong. I want his parents to know that he was a great kid.”

Freshman Seminar teacher Carl Hobkirk remembered Zuczek, who had been his student only since January, as a thoughtful and quiet person, who had many friends.  

Rise Barkan (’20) was one such friend.  He recalled the many times that they  “grabbed Thai food,” and shared stories. Barkan said he really appreciated Zuczek for his kindness.

I’m always going to remember him as the very kind and very respectable person that he was because he always knew his boundaries and he really helped me out through very tough times in my life. I respect him so much for that quality of just being a good friend to people and he really was the person to teach me how important it is to have friends. He was definitely my best friend,” Barkan said.

Zelda Saltzman (’20) described him as someone with a composed exterior which belied an inner warmth.

“Who was Andre? Andre was really something. He wasn’t what you expected him to be. He had a cool, nonchalant attitude, which he embodied, but he really cared. Andre was really really smart, like really smart. He was also a really great person. Even though he joked around a lot and made fun of people, it was always out of fun. He was fun, and that’s what made him Andre,”  Saltzman said.

Zuczek’s recent death is the third current Samo student lost this year, and marks the seventh loss to the Samo community this school year, following the passing of two recent alums and two custodians in addition to the students.

Dr. Shelton urged students, staff and parents to keep Zuczek’s family and friends in their hearts during this rough period of time.

Gonzalez also hopes that Zuczek’s death will mobilize the school community to make students more aware of the risks of drug use.

“I want to deliver this message to students of Samo: we have a drug issue, and it’s a big problem,” Gonzalez said. “We need to address it across grade levels. Not just ninth or tenth, every grade level. I want to make sure it happens while I’m here. I want to promote more awareness, and I think that is doing service to Andre and his parents. I thank [his parents] for their courage and their ability to be very vulnerable in this time when their son has just passed, to say his story so others learn from this.”

There are no funeral arrangements set at the time of publication.

 

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