Kendall grad epitomizes perseverance

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 June 2024 at 7:46 pm

Amber Harrier, who lost both parents to a car accident when she was 10, will graduate with high honors

Photo by Tom Rivers: Amber Harrier, a senior who will graduate on June 28, said the school district and many local families have helped her reach this point. Her parents were killed in a car accident when she was 10 in September 2017.

KENDALL – These days when Amber Harrier, 17, looks in the mirror, she sees her mother. Amber has her mom’s long curly hair and their facial features are a close match.

Seeing that resemblance makes Amber happy – and sad.

Amber was 10 when both her mother and father were killed in a car accident on Route 31 near the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds in Knowlesville. Rebecca Harrier had slowed to make a left hand turn onto Taylor Hill Road when her Chevrolet Corsica was rear-ended. Mrs. Harrier was pronounced deceased at the scene on Sept. 17, 2017. Her husband Randy, 38, was a passenger and died from his injuries the following day.

“I miss them,” Amber said during an interview last week. “I have dreams where they are magically there.”

Amber is the youngest of their three children. She said she continues to feels grief, and anger from the loss of her parents. She has managed high honor roll grades in school, but she admitted she struggled her junior year and considered dropping out.

But teachers, staff and friends kept her going. She has refocused this year and will be attending St. Bonaventure University in Olean to major in psychology with a goal to become a mental health counselor.

Amber says she kept a consuming anger bottled up for several years. As a freshman, she started to let it out. That has helped.

She has come out of her shell, and this year tried things outside her comfort zone, including singing and dancing in the school’s musical of Beauty and the Beast.

“I never thought I’d see myself doing that,” Amber said about performing on stage.

In the musical program, she thanked two teachers, Jeff Decker and Maggie Allocco, for their extra care during her high school years. They helped fill some of the void from losing her parents. Amber said in the program she hoped she made her mom and dad proud.

Photos courtesy of Amber Harrier: Amber Harrier is shown with her mother Rebecca and her father Randy. Amber said she thinks about them every day.

Decker teaches technology and has had Amber in class for four of the past five years. He said she is a role model who has become a leader.

“Everyone should follow in her footsteps and persevere,” Decker said.

He sees Amber taking apart contraptions, trying to figure out how they work. In his principles of engineering class, Amber and her classmates had a challenge in Power Tool Drag Racing where they had to take apart a power toll and repurpose it into a drag racing vehicle.

When others were stumped, Amber kept searching on how to build a chassis, and use old gears and pulleys.

In his classes since 8th grade, Amber has explored electronics, woodworking, 3-D modelling, photography, computer graphics and other technology.

“She has a strength that most kids don’t have,” Decker said. “She doesn’t see it, but I do. It’s the way she overcomes obstacles.”

Decker can relate to losing a parent. He was 17 and living in West Irondequoit when his father died unexpectedly.

Amber said Decker is very patient – “He is chill.”

He helps students work through their problems in the classroom, offering praise for their successes and some gentle correction when they are stuck.

“He is just there for me,” Amber said.

Decker said many students have challenges outside of school, and some have suffered tremendous losses and pain.

“You have no idea what a kid is going through,” he said.

Decker said his teachers were a critical support for him when he lost his father.

Amber Harrier has kept high grades in Kendall and looks forward to attending St. Bonaventure University.

Amber also cited Allocco, an earth science teacher, for giving her extra kindness.

“She reminds me of my mom,” Amber said. “She has taught me life. I would be a totally different person without her.”

Marjim Bauer also has been a big support for Amber during her junior high and high school years. Bauer has worked as a counselor at Kendall for 25 years.

She gives Amber some “tough love,” and helps her complete some of the daunting paperwork to enroll into college, including the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and the form for TAP (Tuition Assistance Program).

Bauer was a teen when her mother died. Bauer said she is committed to helping students work through barriers to their success.

Amber also said some of her friends and their families have been very welcoming, in particular the Stonewell, Reis and Allen families.

“They have let me be part of their families,” Amber said. “I’m very thankful.”

This year Amber has stayed with her friend Callie Allen and her family. Amber and Callie are both headed to St. Bonaventure.

Amber said her goal is to become a mental health counselor to work with teens struggling with anger, grief and other issues.

She said Bauer, the school’s director of counseling, is her role model for what she wants to do with her career.

Bauer said Amber is self-driven to excel. She deserves lots of credit for showing such resilience amidst so much adversity, Bauer said.

“She has pride,” Bauer said. “She wants to do well.”