Interfaith gathering helps Shelton High deal with student’s death

Shelton High School students, parents and staff assembled in the school’s auditorium on the evening of Sunday, March 23 for an interfaith community gathering to remember Kristjan Ndoj, the sophomore who died on March 20.

Several members of the Ndoj family attended the service.

Beth Smith, SHS headmaster, said she planned the evening because “it was important to gather as a school community.”

Referring to an article she had read in the past, Smith told attendees — many of them students — that important lessons often are learned at difficult and sad times.

“Find the strength and courage to keep going, and, even if you stumble a few times, keep going, and continue to support each other,” she said.

‘Unspeakable tragedy’

Smith had contacted the Rev. Lucille Fritz, head of the Shelton Clergy Association, at the beginning of the week.

“I knew as this unspeakable tragedy unfolded that I needed assistance in dealing with it so I reached out to community resources,” Smith said. “Rev. Fritz was instrumental in working with her colleagues to prepare for the evening.”

Words of sympathy and encouragement

During the gathering, members of the clergy from Shelton offered prayers and words of sympathy and encouragement.

These speakers included Fritz, pastor of Huntington Congregational Church; Monsignor Chris Walsh, pastor of St. Joseph Church, where Kristjan Ndoj’s funeral will take place Thursday; the Rev. Nicholas Pavia of St. Joseph Church; the Rev. Dai Hoon Lee, pastor of First United Methodist Church of Shelton; and the Rev. Jack Whritenour, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church.

Attendees at the gathering sang “Let There Be Peace on Earth” in unison.

‘Don’t be afraid to keep going’

In her closing remarks, Smith thanked the clergy members in attendance and referred to an article that she had distributed to her staff at the beginning of the school year — entitled, “8 Things to Remember When Everything Goes Wrong.”

“I would like to end this evening’s gathering by paraphrasing the last point, No. 8, which states, ‘The best thing you can do is keep going.’

“So, don’t be afraid to get back up, to keep going, to love again, to live again and to dream again,” Smith told the gatehring. “Life’s best lessons are often learned at the worst times. You might think that you are stuck feeling sad forever, but you won’t be. Sometimes you have to go through the worst, to get to your best.”

‘Shelton High Strong’

“Yes, right now, things are tough, but you — and we as a school community — are tougher,” Smith said. “Find the strength and courage to keep going, and, even if you stumble a few times, keep going, and continue to support each other.

“Together, we are ‘Shelton High Strong,’” she said.

Crisis team and others assisted

At the beginning of the gathering, Smith had thanked the school crisis team and school counselors for working tirelessly throughout the week to assist students and staff in need, and to help her manage the tragedy.

She also publicly acknowledged the SHS security staff, members of the school system’s central office administration, and school resource (police) officers at both SHS and Shelton Intermediate School.

In addition, Smith thanked members of the Bridges Community Support System and Clifford Beers Clinic for being on hand to support everyone in attendance.

Funeral service is Thursday

Kristjan Ndoj, 15, died in Bridgeport Hospital five days after being shot in a driveway in Shelton. Born in Albania, the Shelton teenager is survived by his mother and father, Fran and Rudina Gjoka Ndoj; brother Elvis Ndoj, a SHS senior; paternal grandmother Franga Ndoj, and other family members.

His wake will be Wednesday, March 26 from 3-7 p.m. in the chapel of the Spinelli-Ricciuti/Bednar-Osieski Funeral Home, 62 Beaver St., Ansonia.

His funeral will Thursday, March 27 at 10 a.m. at St. Joseph’s Church, 50 Fairmont Place (Coram Avenue), Shelton.

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