Education Matters: Honoring Janessa Ramirez’s legacy at Central Unified


FRESNO, California (KSEE) – Janessa Ramirez would have been 16 years old in June. Six years ago, the then nine-year-old was killed. She was an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire of a gang dispute.

Her legacy is being kept alive through a scholarship program for Central Unified students, and most recently a mural.

With each stroke of her paintbrush, 16-year-old Alayna Silva thinks about her friend Janessa Ramirez.

“I want people to just think about bringing more happiness into the world and stop the violence,” said student Alayna Silva. “Stop all the gun stuff going on to remember that a beautiful soul was taken for no reason.”

Six years after Janessa’s death, Alayna joined family, friends, and community members to paint a mural to remember Janessa. The colorful painting covers the south wall of the Granville Teague Community Resource Center in the Central Unified School District.

“It’s a blessing so many people have found ways to remember her and this is awesome and it’s in our area where she grew up so it’s going to be awesome,” said Janessa’s Mother Stacey Gonzales.

The mural was commissioned by the Foundation for Central Schools. Janessa was a 4th grader at Steinbeck Elementary at the time of her death, who loved the color purple.

The painting is just one way to honor Janessa. Five years ago, the Foundation for Central Schools started a scholarship in Janessa’s memory. At the unveiling of the mural, seven high school seniors received an award of $2,500.

“They try to relate to what Janessa stood for and how they are going to use that money going into their college years,” said Central Unified School District Superintendent Andy Alvarado. “It’s actually made a huge impact on our students.”

To date, 31 Central Unified students have received scholarships.

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