CSU campus reeling following two on-campus student deaths

8:44 PM, Oct 30, 2013   |    comments
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FORT COLLINS - The Colorado State University community is mourning after two first-year students died on campus this month.

Nikita Krasko, 18, died on Oct. 12 in his room at Durward hall. Amelia Sundblad, 18, died in her room at Westfall hall last Wednesday; the coroner's office will release her cause and manner of death after results of toxicology reports are available.

Durward and Westfall halls are commonly referred to as the "towers," located near Shields and Laurel streets.

News of their deaths gained traction this week after President Tony Frank wrote a heartfelt letter to the campus community, asking people to band together and support each other during times of need.

The CSU community numbers nearly 40,000, counting faculty, staff and students. With each death, the university must take a hard look at what resources are in place and ask: 'What could we do better, if anything?'" Frank told media Wednesday afternoon.

"Do we have all the safety nets in place?"

CSU implemented a slew of prevention efforts following a spike in suicides five years ago. Five students died by suicide in the 2008-09 school year and four more followed in 2009-10. The university reorganized its health services and took a hard look at points of intervention, early identification strategies and how to build up student resiliency as a means to combat suicide.

This fall, CSU launched a training program called "Notice and Respond." Employees and students leaders learn how to recognize when someone isn't doing well, how to talk with them and direct them to resources in the community. The goal is to show participants that counselors aren't the only people who can help, Dean of Students Jody Donovan said.

Members of the CSU community will be able to voice concerns and ask questions of Donovan Thursday during a forum at 6 p.m. at the Durrel Center, on West Plum Street. Counselors will also be available on campus in coming weeks to "just listen" to students.

Through Taking Stock, a program in place for several years, first-year students living in the dorms fill out a survey assessing how well they're adjusting to college and how they feel about their classes, among other issues. Resident assistants, or RAs, review the results and may refer students to mentoring programs or mental health services, depending on need.

On Facebook, Krasko was a member of a group called "7th Floor Durward Hall" through which residents talked and planned group activities. On that page, CSU student Angie Harcrow posted: "I am heartbroken by the losses you all have endured. Please hold each other close and remember that there is never a reason to feel alone and scared - surround yourself with friends, talk it out, reach out to someone ... chances are someone else has been where you are."

She implored group members to not hesitate if they think a friend is in trouble; "be that rock that someone else may need."

CSU senior Sarah Wynkoop couldn't believe what she was hearing Monday when her boss called to tell her Sundblad died.

"It took me a couple hours to even let it hit me. Still, today, I don't believe it. I'm sitting in a break between classes waiting for her to walk in any minute," Wynkoop said by phone Wednesday afternoon.

Wynkoop and Sundblad met six years ago while working at Girl Scouts of Colorado's Tomakawk Ranch in Bailey. From then on, Wynkoop knew the 2013 Arapahoe High School graduate as a horse enthusiast who "always had a smile on" and who was "always in the background taking pictures of us," recording "those little moments we just pass by, day by day."

"She's one of those people where you walk into a room and the whole room would light up. She was always there for everybody," said Wynkoop, who didn't notice signs that Sundblad might be stressed or struggling.

Jaynie Humann, a junior studying equine science like Sundblad, remembered her friend as "happy all the time, bubbly, cute." She was "an incredible and beautiful spirit," who Humann saw working hard to improve her goat tying skills during CSU Rodeo team practices.

In honor of Sundblad's life, the team is hosting the inaugural Amelia Sundblad Memorial 4D Jackpot Barrel Race Nov. 16 at the B.W. Pickett Arena, on CSU's Foothills campus. A portion of proceeds will go each to the team and Sundblad's family.

"She will always be remembered as the beautiful cowgirl that she is, and we will miss her forever," Humann wrote on the event's Facebook page. Visit the page for more details about the event.

24-hour suicide hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

(Copyright © 2013 Fort Collins Coloradoan, All Rights Reserved)

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