More than 100 people, including family and friends from the GVSU and Royal Oak communities, gather at a candlelight vigil at the Cook Carillon Tower on the GVSU Allendale Campus in memory of DeRosa Dec. 16.

More than 100 people, including family and friends from the GVSU and Royal Oak communities, gather at a candlelight vigil at the Cook Carillon Tower on the GVSU Allendale Campus in memory of DeRosa Dec. 16.

Photo provided by Valerie Wojciechowski, GVSU communications


Deceased GVSU student identified as Royal Oak High School grad

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published December 16, 2020

 DeRosa

DeRosa

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ROYAL OAK — The communities of Royal Oak and Grand Valley State University, which is located near Grand Rapids, are mourning the loss of Royal Oak resident Taylor DeRosa. She was 18.

The body of the first-year college student and 2020 Royal Oak High School graduate was discovered on the GVSU campus by a runner near the intramural athletic fields the morning of Dec. 12. The Grand Valley State University Police Department and the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, along with the Michigan State Police, are investigating what they described as a “suspicious” death.

Police said there was no identification with the body and that, when DeRosa’s body was identified, her family asked the university to release her name.

“While the investigation is ongoing, and the cause of death has not been fully determined, Brandon DeHaan, director of public safety and chief of police, said it appears at this time that the general public or campus population is not in danger,” police said in a Dec. 15 statement. “DeHaan urged the campus community to be patient, not to rush to any conclusions and to stop spreading false information, particularly on social media.”

Eight hours after its creation, approximately 1,238 donors had raised $45,848 through a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign for funeral costs and time off work that was organized by Gina Mollencopf, of Royal Oak, a close friend of the family. As of press time, the total had reached $63,528.

According to the webpage, DeRosa was a freshman majoring in international business and minoring in French. She attended Camp Nissokone in Oscoda since she was 11 and served as a counselor for several years, and in high school, participated in lacrosse, Interact Club, Spirit Club and the Diploma Programme.

“Taylor lived a passionate, involved life as an advocate for gun control, Black Lives Matter, women’s rights and a host of other organizations and movements that supported human equality, fairness and truth,” Mollencopf wrote. “Taylor’s smile was illuminating, and her warmth, friendliness and humor brought joy to everyone who knew her.”

Mollencopf said that DeRosa’s mother, Carolyn, raised her daughter by herself since she was born and worked seven days a week at two different jobs to “provide her the perfect life she deserved.”

“They were the best of friends and FaceTimed or spoke every day. Carolyn was very involved in Taylor’s life, and many of Taylor’s friends considered her as a second mother,” she wrote. “We lost our beautiful, strong, courageous, smart and sweet Taylor far too soon.”

Any excess money raised will be donated to a “fund near to Taylor’s heart,” Mollencopf wrote.

GVSU President Philomena V. Mantella, in a Dec. 15 statement, acknowledged the tragic incident, the outpouring of concern for the family’s loss, and the limited knowledge as far as cause of death.

“Tragedies have a way of focusing our attention to what matters most — the people around us,” Mantella wrote. “Keep the student’s family in your thoughts and offer your help and support to those who need it.”

On Dec. 15, Royal Oak Schools released a statement after the district learned of DeRosa’s death.

“As we all struggle to process this news, our thoughts go out to Taylor’s family and friends,” Royal Oak High School Principal Michael Giromini said in the statement. “Taylor had an immensely positive impact on our community, and that influence will help us in our grieving process.”

On Dec. 16, GVSU students organized a socially distanced candlelight vigil at the Cook Carillon Tower on the GVSU Allendale Campus in memory of DeRosa. According to the university, more than 100 people, including family and friends from the GVSU and Royal Oak communities, attended the event.

“Be alert and aware of your surroundings at all times. At the first sign of danger, or if you see suspicious activity, call 911,” police stated Dec. 12. “If you see someone who could be in trouble, speak up or call authorities.”

Anyone with information regarding the incident should contact the Grand Valley State University Police Department at (616) 331-3255 or Silent Observer at (877) 887-4536.

For support, contact the crisis text line by texting “HOME” to 741741, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255, or call New Oakland Family Centers’ 24-hour emergency hotline at (877) 800-1650.

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