GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – Students and staff at Greeneville High School are mourning the loss of one of their own.
On Friday, Director of Greeneville City Schools Steve Starnes confirmed to News Channel 11 the passing of 16-year-old Teagan Welch. Welch was a junior at Greeneville High School.
The school later released this message to staff and the student body later that same afternoon:
“The Greeneville City School District community is mourning the loss of one of our beloved Greeneville High School students. Teagan Welch, 11th grade student, was loved by her classmates, her teachers, her principals, and the entire GHS staff. Teagan was a standout member of the Pride of the Greene Devils Band and a cherished member of the GHS Bowling Team. Numerous supports have been put into place for GHS students, faculty, and staff as they grieve this tremendous loss. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Teagan’s family and friends.”
While students were off campus on Friday due to weather conditions cancelling classes, Principal Martin McDonald and his staff still met to discuss how they plan to assist students during this time.
Grief counselors from across the district were pulled in on Thursday to help students and hosted virtual sessions Friday morning after the news of her passing officially broke. Those same counselors and resources will be available once again on campus Monday and through the week, as needed.
McDonald said losing a student in any scenario is hard, but this instance was especially difficult.
“For the most part, when it comes to high school, it’s either going to be some kind of major health issue or it’s going to be a car accident, I don’t think anyone would have ever imagined that we’d be facing a tragedy like this one,” he said.
McDonald confirmed that Teagan Welch was the 16-year-old who was injured in a shooting earlier this week at a gas station in White Pine.
When police arrived on scene, one man was dead and two others injured; among the injured was Teagan.
McDonald said he was in contact with Teagan’s mother throughout the week after first hearing the shocking news on Tuesday morning.
McDonald said this is a hard loss because he knew how bright and loving of a person Teagan was.
“She is a bringer of joy and a bringer or life. She’s odd, she’s quirky, she is creative and she is someone who stands out in a room,” he said.
A vigil on Wednesday night hosted at the school brought out more than 100 people, but on Thursday evening, the news of her passing shook the school.
Teagan was described as very active on campus. She was the flute section leader in the band and a new member of the bowling team, a team she joined merely 6 months ago. However, in that short time, Teagan made a lasting impression.
“Along the way when they needed uplifting, she was there with that bright and smiling face to give them an encouraging word,” said Greeneville High School Bowling Coach, Johnny Painter.
While she was new to bowling, band was in her blood. Band Director, Brooke Williams said the loss is incredibly painful and one of her worst nightmares come to life.
“Teagan was a crucial part of our band family. I’ve known her for five years and watched her grow up. She is a one-of-a-kind, unique individual and I loved that about her. She loved to standout and had such a beautiful confidence about her, she was infectious. This is a terrible loss,” said Williams.
Williams said Teagan used to wear a set of butterfly wings and always stood out in the crowd. She loved her like one of her own.
While the loss is tough on the band and students are still shocked and hurting, she said they will pull together and lean on each other while at the same time, honoring Teagan’s memory.
It was a tragic event that still sparked some hope. McDonald told News Channel 11 Teagan was an organ donor and that even in her passing, she continues helping others.
“The doctors communicated to the mom that her ultimate sacrifice and gift would bring life to up to eight people, and her mom takes great solace in knowing that even in the midst of this tragedy that a miracle still emerged,” said McDonald.
The band and bowling team are also hatching ideas on how to honor their sweet friend. Some of the ideas mentioned in a Friday afternoon Zoom consisting of band and bowling members included the mention of a donor purchasing butterfly lapel pins for the teams to wear in her memory, offering a reward at the team banquets in Teagan’s name, composing songs in her memory and raising money for her family in the midst of this tragedy.
The bowling team hasn’t been together physically since Christmas, and their first practice of the year without Teagan will be Monday in preparation for their tournament Wednesday.
Painter said that tournament will be in honor of Teagan.