About 30 classmates, teachers and mentors of Yasmin Acree gathered at their school last Friday to remember the missing teen on the third anniversary of her disappearance.
Yasmin, then-15, disappeared from her home on Jan. 15 2008.
The group is still determined to find their friend, a cousin of Rev. Ira Acree of Greater St. John Bible Church. Although there are no leads in Yasmin’s disappearance-which Chicago Police originally treated as a runaway case but later reclassified her case-her friends and family still hope for her return.
That’s why earlier this month, a time when the country honored Dr. King’s legacy of serving as our “brother’s keeper,” a group of students at Austin Polytechnical Academy initiated an effort to find answers about Yasmin’s disappearance.
“I think someone, somewhere knows something,” said Diondai Brown-Whitfield, president of the Austin High School Alumni Association, and founder of Parents and Children with Asthma (PACA). Brown said she’s still not satisfied with what the police are doing to find Yasmin.
She vividly remembers the girl, who is an honors student.
“I first met Yasmin in the seventh grade,” Brown-Whitfield recalled. “She was a peacemaker. She displayed confidence, beauty, grace, leadership; Christian values, and the love and support of her family and friends.”
Brown said before her disappearance during her freshmen year, Yasmin had always expressed interest in graduating from Austin Polytech, 231 N. Pine. Brown also had just started at the then-new high school-one of three now located in the former Austin High School campus. This would have been Yasmin’s senior year at Austin Polytech.
“She was one of those students who helped keep things together here at the school,” Brown said. “My job now is to reassure that the students here at Austin Polytech receive the proper resources to help cope with Yasmin’s sudden disappearance.”
Students like Rashida Redmond, her best friend, have had difficultly coping in the last three years. Redmond, who’s a senior, said it upsets her that the Chicago Police Department has no leads in the case.
“I want the entire community to keep working hard to find Yasmin,” she said, her voice cracking, though turning up the corner of her lip to produce a smile. “I’m still hoping she’s alive, and I’m ready for her to return home.”
The two girls were also classmates at May Elementary School, 512 S. Lavergne. It was Rashida’s idea to host last Friday’s assembly at Austin Polytech.
“I needed to let all students know that she is never forgotten,” she said, adding that she wished the turnout was larger, but thankful for those who did attend.
Student Toriano Hughes, a senior, said he remembers Yasmin and wishes she’d return to her loved ones. The senior class president insisted that there needs to be more events held to help find her. He’s hopeful that she’ll be found. Hughes also remembered having first period class with Yasmin.
“She was real funny and sweet. I had a crush on her,” he said, grinning. “From the day you met Yasmin, you felt her presence (as) a real, genuine person.”
Brown-Whitfield hopes to organize another effort next month for students at the high school-a campus-wide event so that all students can participate.
“We need to keep the memory of Yasmin alive,” added Carol Johnson, a member of the Austin High School Alumni Association and Yasmin’s mentor. “Three years later, I feel hope. To know Yasmin was to love her, and I am very hopeful that she will be found, alive and well.”