Grace displayed in the face of tragedy
At 9:12 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010, Shyonna Leach was sitting on the couch watching TV when she heard a knock on the front door.
Her mom opened the door and stepped outside to speak with two police officers and a pastor.
"I knew something was wrong because that doesn't normally happen," Leach said. "I thought it was my grandma because she has heart issues."
Leach called her grandmother, who answered the phone and assured Leach she was fine.
Leach said she waited about 10 minutes before her mom came back inside and broke the news. Leach's dad, Ray Glen Leach, a former Medford police officer, had been shot and killed by his girlfriend, Charlene Leuzetia Meixner, at his east Medford home earlier that night.
Leach said she cried late into the night, but somehow managed to attend all her classes at North Medford High School the next day.
"I think I was in shock," she said. "Besides, what would I do at home? Just sit there?"
Although her parents were divorced and she lived with her mom, Leach said she had a good relationship with her dad, who would often take her on a bike ride or to a movie and the mall.
Two weeks after her father's death, Leach spoke at his funeral, which was attended by many officers and "big bosses" from the police department. At the funeral, she expressed how sad she was that her dad would miss her prom, her graduation, her wedding and the other high points of her life.
"That year was rough," she said Thursday.
Although her father won't be able to attend her graduation on June 7, two of her heroes — her mom, Medford police Detective Stephanie Smith, and her grandmother — will be there.
"I have learned a lot from my grandma and my mom," she said. "Neither of them have a significant other, but they are independent, and they work hard to achieve on their own."
This fall, Leach plans to study psychology at the Robert D. Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon.
"My parents got me interested in law enforcement, and I want to become an FBI profiler one day," she said.
For her senior project, Leach raised $3,900 for ballistic vests for Medford's canine unit.
"In the process of working on my project, I learned that my dad had been actively involved in the start-up of Medford's canine unit," she said.
The money bought two vests, and the rest she donated to the Jackson County Animal Shelter.
Justeen Brown, a math teacher at North, said Leach didn't ask for extensions or exemptions when she could have, but "held herself to a higher standard."
"I have never met a more hard-working and focused student," Brown said. "But what truly makes Shyonna stand out is her ability to look past the current situation, and she never loses sight of her goal."
Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.