Remembering Javi: A Shining Light


R. Sass

As part of a fundraiser to support students, staff, and families impacted by Covid-19, artist Rebecca Sass was commissioned to create a drawing of Javi.

CEV Staff

As Becton students and faculty returned for the 2020-2021 school year, one shining light was missing. Javiera Rodriguez, lovingly known as “Javi”, passed away from complications of Covid-19 on April 1st, 2020. The first of many losses the Becton community, like so many others, faced during this unprecedented pandemic. Ms. Rodriguez worked as a social worker within the small district, developing strong relationships with the students who needed her most. On this, the 6 month anniversary of her death, the Cat’s Eye View pays tribute to all that she accomplished, the person she was, and the lasting impact she has made on our school.

An advocate for Becton students over the past 10 years, Ms. Rodriguez had a way of reaching students that went beyond her office. She developed meaningful relationships with students, which made the loss even more devastating. “I will always remember Javi for her infectious laugh and her tireless effort to help every child she communicated with” shared colleague and fellow student advocate, Mr. Carlo Maucione.I saw her feed those that were hungry and listen to those that were hurting as if they were her own children. Javi set an example for all of us to continue to follow”, Maucione added. It was that commitment that inspired the BCEA to donate $1,000 to the Center for Food Action and $1,000 to Table to Table in Rodriguez’s name. “She inherently knew that nurturing a student’s wellbeing encompasses meeting a kaleidoscope of needs, basic of which is a family’s ability to put food on the table” explained Sue McBride, President of the BCEA, in a letter announcing the donation.

 A grief counseling group was created as a place for students, faculty, and parents to share their memories of Ms. Rodriguez and deal with their loss. Something that Ms. Rodriguez, herself, had helped a number of students deal with over her devoted career. “She was always there for me. There to talk. There to listen,” shared one of the students who Rodriguez worked with closely. A GoFundMe created for the family, which has raised more than $18,000, is full of comments from students, parents, colleagues, friends, and family about the overwhelming influence her life had on theirs. To say she will be missed is an understatement, her memory will be cherished. 

Superintendent, Dr. Dario Sforza described Ms. Rodriguez as a “champion for students” shortly after the shocking news of her death. Online classes were canceled and students and staff participated in a ‘day of mourning’ on April 3rd to both remember and grieve. “Javi’s passing was a tremendous loss to our school family” reflected Dr. Sforza. “From the pain and suffering, our school community came together in ways never imagined in our school history. We will forever reflect on her beautiful life and legacy, which has made a lasting impact on all. Although we love and miss Javi, we know that her positive spirit and light will forever shine bright on our Becton Regional High School family.”

In addition to her efforts as a social worker, Ms. Rodriguez was also an accomplished artist, jewelry maker, and was dedicated to promoting the art scene in Jersey City. She co-ran various galleries in the city, over the years, showcasing new artists and providing support for various productions. In August, a Jersey City mural, created by artists Bryant Small, Leondro Comrie, and Loren Abbate was dedicated to Rodriguez. The mural was titled “The New House of Color”, Javiera in Spanish meaning ‘new house’ or ‘bright’. That is what she was, a bright light that shined on everyone lucky enough to spend time with her. Even after her death, that light continues. Literally, with the Becton school community lighting Riggin field blue to remember Rodriguez and all of the families impacted by Covid-19. And figuratively, through the lasting impact, she has made on all of us.  

 In a tweet on April 5th, Governor Phil Murphy described Rodriguez as someone who “wore many hats”, but you would never know from the dedication she gave to every person who walked into her office.  It was her unwavering compassion that stays with us today as we mourn her, remember her, and are inspired to be more like her.