Family, classmates, community are dealing with the painful absence of the 16-year-old Lakeville North junior killed in a car accident.
More than two weeks after her death, Matt Ettl is still paging through the many notebooks and papers left by his daughter, Lakeville North junior Alyssa Ettl.
The written tidbits she left — “Get things started!” “Be the hug advocate!” “Help kids that are not in class!” “Make a difference!” — speak volumes about Alyssa, who is being remembered by family, friends and the community as a gifted, faithful student who loved life and helping others.
Ettl, 16, died in a car accident on Dec. 4 while driving to school when her car slid sideways on the slushy road and was broadsided by an SUV. The accident happened on Dodd Boulevard, about a quarter-mile north of the high school.
“She was an extremely fun-loving, jovial individual that just couldn’t get enough out of life,” her dad said. “She was the first person in line to help someone out. She was just an organized little stinker, if you will.”
Ettl was a talented soccer player and had recently learned she would be a captain next year. She was a junior class officer and a member of many school organizations, including DECA, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, student council, National Honor Society, Best Buddies and Youth Teaching Youth. She also worked part-time at Lakeview Bank.
“Whatever activity she did, she would lead it,” said Caleb Bussler, a junior and close friend who was involved in DECA and other activities with Alyssa.
One of the most important areas of her life was her faith. She taught Sunday school and was active at All Saints Catholic Church in Lakeville.
She often urged her parents to make it to mass, saving the family a pew, Matt Ettl said. “She probably taught me more about faith and religion than all my years going to Catholic grade school through college,” he said.
A strong student academically — she was ranked seventh in her class — she had wanted to attend the Air Force Academy for years, her dad said, though she was considering the Naval Academy, the University of Notre Dame and UW-Madison, too.
She hoped to play soccer in college and was interested in politics, he said.
Alyssa’s death has had a significant effect on students at the school, said Lisa Holien, a counselor at Lakeville North.
While Alyssa was well-liked and very involved, students are remembering her because “her value system guided everything she did,” Holien said.
They are also using her example of service — she was an avid volunteer — and kindness as a model, she said.
Students “have really mobilized around their grief” and have organized a food drive, worked with the Salvation Army and are raising money for a scholarship fund in her name, Holien added.
Kids are also continuing a project Alyssa started, collecting books for underprivileged kids, her dad said.
Bussler said her death has “affected almost everyone, in almost every way,” he said. “If you’re in the school, you can tell a complete difference.”