Bradley students gathered on the steps of Bradley Hall for a candlelight vigil on April 26. The gathering was organized to honor Andrea Rosewicz and Paul Prowant, the victims of a car crash which current senior Stephanie Melgoza was involved in, and protest the then-current decision to allow Melgoza the opportunity to walk at graduation.
Melgoza crashed her vehicle after consuming alcohol on April 10, leaving both Rosewicz and Prowant dead on the scene. She currently faces two charges of aggravated DUI resulting in death, two charges of aggravated DUI resulting in bodily harm and unlawful possession of cannabis.
On April 23, Bradley posted its approved list of graduating seniors for the spring of 2022, with Melgoza’s name being found on the Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts Bachelor in Science graduation list, inciting backlash within the student body.
On the morning of April 26, the message “She murdered 2 people, do not let her walk” appeared in chalk in front of the Lydia Moss Bradley statue. The writing was then removed later in the day, which was noted and spread by students through social media. The vigil was held that evening, led by Lilliana Garcia, who wrote the chalk message.
“I personally want to honor the lives of Paul and Andrea because at the end of the day, their lives were taken and their chapters [of their lives] were ended abruptly because of [Melgoza’s] actions, so I wanted a reminder of the lives lost,” Garcia, a junior biochemistry major, said.
The event featured speeches from Garcia, the president and vice president of Bradley’s chapter of Active Minds, sophomore English education major Dennise Collins and elected student body president David Daye. A picture of Melgoza’s mugshot was also displayed on one of the entrance doors to Bradley Hall.
Collins shared information and stories about Rosewicz and Prowant from obituaries written by family and friends before performing the chorus of “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth in tribute to them. Garcia then hosted a two-minute moment of silence for the victims.
The president and vice president of Active Minds then spoke briefly after the moment of silence about the variety of counseling services currently available for students to access. Following Active Minds, Daye gave a speech in which he commended the students in the audience on uniting as a community and focused his message on staying strong together.
“We [have] got to be kind to one another [and] support one another because moments like these, while people may not be directly involved, can be very hard for members of our community,” Daye said.
Following Daye’s speech, Garcia pointed out two posters on the sides of the steps. One displayed Bradley President Stephen Standifird’s email and phone number, while the other had the state attorney’s phone number. Garcia urged students to get out their phones and either save the information on their phone or make a call then and there to make sure that their voices were heard on the option for Melgoza to not walk at graduation.
As Garcia finished her speech voicing her opinion that it is wrong for Melgoza to partake in the privilege of walking at graduation, she opened the floor for audience members to make any public statements on the steps.
One student spoke about her experience with drunk driving, as her mother had done so before and served prison time for it. The student said that she forgave her mother and that she learned from her decisions, further stating that what the students in attendance were doing was only making the situation worse.
The student also stated that none of the students knew why Melgoza had been drinking before driving to begin with, and suggested that she may have been dealing with issues that would’ve motivated those in attendance to make similar decisions. She then said that she believes Melgoza should be allowed to walk because she put years of work into her degree and should be given the chance to learn and grow from what the student described as a mistake. The student ended her statement by criticizing the vigil’s inclusion and use of Melgoza’s mugshot.
Afterwards, freshman Lexie Mahoney stated her belief that Melgoza should not walk on the basis that Bradley students are adults, not children and should accept the consequences of their actions.
“Unfortunately, I think the sad truth is that people are treating this like it’s a mistake that happens all the time,” Mahoney, a nutrition major, said. “…We are not children; we are all 18 to 22 in this campus, and this is not the kind of thing where you push your sibling down on the playground and you go cry to your mom. That’s a mistake. … Getting behind the wheel with a .234 BAC…that’s not a mistake.”
Another audience member spoke in support of Mahoney’s position, after which Garcia thanked everyone for their attendance and support. Garcia then handed out chalk for students to write messages on the steps and sidewalk in front of Bradley Hall.
Some of the students in attendance wrote messages about the consequences of drunk driving and the wrongness of Melgoza’s actions in support of the cause and the victims, as well as lighting miniature candles that were provided.
“I wanted to honor the people whose lives were taken and also show my support and agreements with [the notion that] Stephanie should not be allowed to walk at graduation,” Jordan Davis, a senior hospitality management major, said. “It personally makes me very uncomfortable to know that she could be there in that same room as me.”
As of the afternoon of April 27, Melgoza’s name has since been removed from the list of graduating seniors.
For those who want to help the victims at this time, Garcia stated that both families are not taking direct donations. Rosewicz’s family requests donations to any charity of one’s choosing, while Prowant’s family requests donations to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization.
This article was updated at 1:51 a.m. on April 29 for clarification.