Hundreds of local teenagers, parents, artists and performers attended a fundraiser Friday night to honor the memory of Tara Romero, and to encourage each other to face the loss of their friend with collective support.
The event, titled “Your Words Have Power,” was organized as a tribute to Romero and a fundraiser for the Sobrato High School senior class and the El Toro Youth Center. It was held at the SHS Performing Arts Center.
Jeff Turner, who hosted the fundraiser, said while the event focused on the Nov. 4, 2011 drive-by murder victim, it was also meant to inspire Morgan Hill youth and motivate them to express themselves freely through words, art, music or any medium they excel at.
Numerous speakers, including Romero’s mother Annette Nevarez, emphasized the importance of staying strong through the pain of their friend’s loss. Local students performed original musical acts between speakers. Original student art work was displayed in the front lobby to greet attendees on their way into the auditorium.
“We need more things like this,” Turner said to close out the program. “No matter what you’re holding onto, you can make it through.”
Romero and three other teens were shot in a drive-by shooting Nov. 4, 2011. They were standing at the corner of Cosmo and Del Monte avenues waiting for a ride home from a birthday party when a Chrysler full of five suspects drove by and opened fire. Romero, who was a freshman at SHS, was pronounced dead at the scene when paramedics arrived.
Also shot were Alicia Sotelo, 14; Rosa Castaneda, 14; and Chris Loredo, 16. Sotelo and Castaneda, who were both shot in the leg, attended Friday’s fundraiser.
Friends of Romero’s at the event described the 14-year-old as a caring person who was always smiling and positive. Jessica Reed, 15, said she attended the event to support Romero’s family.
“And I want to try to bring the community together, and teach the community about gangs, and hopefully prevent this from happening again,” Reed said.
The shooting victims were not associated with any gang-related activity and were likely mistakenly targeted by the shooters, according to police and the victims’ families. Their shooters, however, are allegedly associated with the Sureno street gang, and carried out the shooting to support the gang, police said.
Five suspects were arrested hours after the shooting and remain in custody in Santa Clara County Jail.
Martin Saenz, 17, was only “friends of friends” of Romero’s, but the murdered teen had such a profound impact on him and the SHS student body that he felt compelled to attend Friday night’s fundraiser.
“She was always there as someone to talk to,” Saenz said. “Any negative thing would just go right around her, and she would make it positive.”
Event organizers plan to keep Romero’s memory alive by bringing an annual concert named after her to Morgan Hill. They also hope to gain permission and support to paint a mural for her in a public place in town.