Schools Across Vermont Are “Harwood Strong” Following Deaths of Teens

The Vermont education community has shown an outpouring of support for Harwood Union High School following the weekend tragedy

Schools across Vermont are showing their support for Harwood Union High School in Duxbury, following the deaths of four Harwood juniors in a horrific highway crash this weekend.

Another student, who grew up in the Harwood district but who attended a different school, also died.

At South Burlington High School Wednesday, students were wearing black and gold—the Harwood school colors.

“I think we came together as a school to show that they’re not alone,” said Rachel Labombard, a South Burlington senior. “They have people looking out and caring for them.”

Brigid Nease, the superintendent of the Washington West Supervisory Union, said Tuesday that flowers, food, and messages from every corner of the state have poured in following the deaths of Harwood juniors Mary Harris, Cyrus Zschau, Liam Hale, and Eli Brookens.

Their childhood friend, Janie Kozzi, went to Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, New Hampshire, and was with the tightknit Harwood group as they returned from a concert Saturday night.

“I think it’s comforting,” Nease said of the kindness the Harwood community has felt from other Vermont schools. “I’m certain that the faculty feels hugged by the state. We are just hearing from everyone.”

As support for the families and friends of the crash victims grows, the investigation continues into the man suspected of driving the wrong way before crashing into the teens’ vehicle.

Steven Bourgoin, 36, of Williston, has been upgraded to fair condition, according to the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.

Bourgoin has not yet been charged in the teens’ deaths, but he remains the only suspect in the quintuple fatal crash.

Police said Bourgoin crashed into the teens' car, then stole a police cruiser before crashing it into at least seven other vehicles. While those subsequent crashes caused several injuries, none of them were life-threatening, police said.

Tuesday, police served an arrest warrant on the hospitalized Bourgoin for his alleged theft of the cruiser. He is in custody of the Vermont Department of Corrections.

It was not immediately known if Bourgoin is being represented by an attorney.

In the wake of the loss of the students, social media became a prime way many people, including educators, showed they are “Harwood Strong.”

Montpelier High School principal Mike McRaith tweeted, “I extend my sympathy and deepest condolences.”

Champlain Valley Union's principal, Adam Bunting, tweeted, “Harwood, you are in our hearts and minds.”

And Williston's district principal, Greg Marino, tweeted, “Thinking of you all. One step / day at a time.”

Vermont’s education secretary told necn it touches her heart to see so many districts rallying behind Harwood.

“I am so grateful to live in this state,” said Rebecca Holcombe, the secretary of the Vermont Agency of Education. “I don’t think anything can fix the hurt. But what we can do is try to show that we’re there and that we’re holding hands behind them to support these communities.”

Olivia Dickinson and her fellow South Burlington field hockey players made nearly 1,000 memorial ribbons for students to wear, the student athlete said.

“Things like this make you think a lot about how grateful you are to be in school today,” Dickinson said of the tragedy. “To have them in our thoughts all day and see everyone supporting them like this is awesome.”

“Vermont’s a very small state and we’re basically one big community,” observed Mehul Shah, the South Burlington High School student council president. “So anything that happens anywhere in the state, Vermont’s always there to support every community.”

The Associated Press and NBC 5 News contributed to this report.

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