'Burnsville Strong' mantra spreads in wake of student deaths

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A "Burnsville Strong" campaign launched by two teachers is spreading as the south suburb continues to mourn and honor the lives of nine students or recent graduates who have died in the last year or so.

The teachers – Jen Waller McDevitt and her husband David McDevitt – decided to amplify a Twitter hashtag that students were already using: #BurnsvilleStrong.

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The two took the motto and expanded it into its own Facebook page, Twitter feed and Instagram account, and now #BurnsvilleStrong is also popping up on T-shirts, bumper stickers, parade banners and church signs, the Pioneer Press reports.

"We believe Burnsville will and can remain strong despite adversity," Jen McDevitt writes in an open letter to the community on a webpage about the project. "We believe the youth of Burnsville need to see and feel this coming from everyone around them."

Jen McDevitt said the campaign served a dual purpose – to rally the community, but also be a reminder to students to make responsible decisions. "Unfortunately, a lot of the deaths have been preventable deaths," she told the Pioneer Press. "It's a remembrance – but also a reminder to use your best judgment."

Among the young people who have been lost was a Ty Alyea, a talented 17-year-old baseball player who was killed in a rollover crash last month that injured several of his friends.

"I've not only seen the campaign, but I felt it in reality," Ty's mother Lori Alyea told FOX 9, noting that the family has been touched by an outpouring of support. "Unbelievable how they just came around us."

"I had no idea that our son had either directly or indirectly affected so many people," Greg Alyea told KARE 11.

KARE notes that teachers say they are still finding out about students who have died in the past year or so, but at least nine families have suffered a loss.

Among the young people who have been mourned in Burnsville are Brett Raley, killed in a moped crash in 2012, and Anarae Schunk, a Burnsville High School graduate who was killed in September 2013. Two people have been charged in the 20-year-old University of Minnesota student's killing.

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