Gillian Aguilera


Maddie Almodovar

Gillian Aguilera was a junior at Bonita Vista high. A poster with this photo was used for students to write messages after Aguilera’s death.

Over Halloween weekend on Oct. 28th, Bonita Vista High (BVH) junior Gillian Aguilera was shot after leaving a Halloween party. Soon afterwards, she passed away from the gunshot wounds on Saturday, Oct. 29th at the hospital. Aguilera’s mother Diana Del Valle organized a GoFundMe on October 31st, a couple days after her death to raise money for funeral and family expenses.

After her death, posters of Aguilera were found around the school with messages from BVH students. Students were able to write departing messages for Aguilera. 

One of those posters with messages for Gillian Aguilera is posted between the 700’s bathrooms. Students are able to sign it or read the messages that other students leave for Aguilera. (Maddie Almodovar)

On Thursday, Nov. 3rd, Assistant Principal Jason Josafat sent out a Jupiter message on behalf of BVH Principal Lee Romero, announcing and acknowledging Aguilera’s death. Also in the message, Romero states Del Valle first contacted him and “gave Romero her blessings to share her tragedy with the Baron community.”

As a result, Romero and Del Valle came to an agreement that a candlelight vigil for Aguilera would be held at BVH. The vigil, according to Josafat, is not a school-sanctioned event and is organized by Del Valle herself. The vigil is set for Monday, November 7th at 4:30 p.m. and people are encouraged to come and bring their own candles. 

At the vigil, Aguilera’s family, childhood friends and elementary classmates attended with candles while photos of Aguilera were passed out. Despite the rain, people had simply moved under the awning and continued with speaking about Aguilera. 

Close friends of Aguilera established that the vigil was a “celebration of her life because it was a beautiful life and she was a beautiful person.” Mharck Cruz was open to being interviewed about their friendship.

Cruz graduated from 2022 and is now a freshman at San Diego State University. He recalls first meeting Aguilera in BVH’s hallways, after she complimented his outfit. They had become close friends since then, going out and shopping in thrift stores often. 

She’s the sweetest person ever. I saw that she was friends with my friends, so I started going with them,” Cruz said. “Anywhere she was, she lit it up. It was an instant connection.”

Del Valle stated the vigil was a “safe place” for people to share any memories they have with Aguilera. One of her friends emphasized she and Aguilera would have the type of “connection where you would look at each other and start laughing”. 

Other than students and friends attending the vigil, Aguilera’s English 10 teacher Michael Ortiz and English teacher Gina Vattunone came to celebrate her life. Ortiz had her last year when Aguilera was a sophomore and his classroom was open for her and her friends during lunch.

“This year, she came back to me and said she was doing well in English, that she knew she was going to be successful in her junior year English and that is kind of the moment I’m hanging on to, to remember,” Ortiz said.

The vigil allowed for people to come together and speak on Aguilera’s life, where conversations started with “I met her when…” The poster on BVH’s wall with Aguilera’s photograph states a sunrise and sunset, the sunrise representing her birthday and sunset representing the day she passed.

“She loved the sunset,” Cruz said. “I’m glad I have a tattoo because I love sunsets, too.”

Currently, according to Romero, counselors are available for students, parents and families for grief-counseling about Aguilera’s death. Ortiz stated students in the first week following Aguilera’s death utilized it to their advantage. While students continue to process the loss of Aguilera, the vigil provided a reminder that while she cared about everyone, people had also cared about her.

“It’s times like these where we really need to stop, pause and reflect on taking care of ourselves and each other. We are Bonita Vista Barons and this community rallies around and loves each other,” Romero said. 

Following protocol, Aguilera’s information was deleted to stop absent calls from reaching home.