During a candlelight vigil held in honor of Samuel Collington, Deborah Ann Schnellenbach, Collington’s Advanced Placement English high school teacher, shared a story about how Collington was reluctant to accept an old school library book about Henry Kissinger as a gift because he worried he would be stealing.
She convinced him to keep the book and reimbursed the school library.
“Sam was a man of integrity, ethics and morals,” she said.
Schnellenbach was among the friends, family and teachers that spoke at a vigil in front of Collington’s alma mater, Interboro High School in Prospect Park, Pennsylvania, to share their memories of him. Attendees also walked to Norwood Public Library to hear speeches from politicians Collington worked with.
Collington, a senior political science major, was fatally shot at Park Avenue near Susquehanna on Nov. 28, The Temple News reported.
Collington volunteered at the Norwood Public Library, organized a walk-out after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, achieved the rank of an Eagle Scout as a Boy Scout and served as the president of the Political Science Society at Temple, according to his obituary.
Speakers shared stories of Collington’s wit, humor and passion. His aunt, Ann Marie Collington, read an essay he wrote to give advice to high school freshmen.
“I just want to read this to you for anybody who doesn’t know Sam and didn’t ever get to really know him and you’ll hear his spirit in these words,” she said.
The essay evoked laughter from the crowd and gave advice to freshmen on how to navigate high school, become involved in school clubs and develop new friendships.
“Adults can have the best intentions but they run the risk of sounding out of touch,” she read. “It’s not their fault, they were our age a long time ago. I just went through high school so I will try and shed some light and offer you some advice. I promise you I’m qualified.”
Schnellenbach spoke after his aunt and ended her speech by reaffirming Collington’s importance and the community’s commitment to honoring his legacy.
“You lived a life of service and you lived a life of purpose,” she said. “For you Sam, we will fight your causes. For you Sam, we will tell your story.”
Collington was a born leader, said Tina Moore, an AP European history teacher and a class of 2018 adviser at Interboro High School. Moore taught Collington social studies his freshman and sophomore year.
Collington was passionate and cared deeply about things, she said. He brought passion into the classroom his freshman year when the class discussed current events on Fridays and again the next year in debates with his classmates, Moore added.
Moore also knew him through extracurricular activities like Class Congress, where students organize school dances and decorate the school for holidays, she said.
Andrew Herrmann, an English teacher, shared a humorous story about the time Collington pranked the creative writing class by queueing up “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley 100 times on the class Spotify.
The last time Herrmann saw Collington was at the Thanksgiving football game last week, where he made jokes about which political revolutionaries his shirt made him look like, Herrmann said.
“It made me so happy to know that someone could go from a ninth grader to a 21 year old and still retain that essence,” Herrmann added.
His sister, Bailey Collington, gave a speech about what it was like growing up being known as “Sam’s sister” because of how well known he was in school.
Collington’s parents, Molly and Dennis Collington, briefly thanked the crowd for honoring their son by attending. They are raising money to cover funeral expenses and create a scholarship in their son’s memory, according to his obituary.
Other speakers at the school included Bill Soroka, an AP government teacher, Tony Meccariello, an AP U.S. history teacher, Andy Costanzo, a student council adviser, Tim Pettyjohn, Samuel Collington’s boss from Heritage Ballrooms and Bernadette Reiley, superintendent of the Interboro School District.
After Reiley’s speech, the crowd walked to Norwood Public Library, where Pennsylvania State Sen. Tim Kearney and State Rep. David Delloso both spoke about Collington’s work on their campaigns.
Collington also worked as a democracy fellow with Philadelphia City Commissioner Omar Sabir, who was touched by the love the community has for Collington. Collington’s death was devastating and drove home the impact of gun violence, he said.
“We have to do more work,” Sabir added. “The suspect that was arrested was 17 years old. That’s not good. We have to do better to combat gun violence across America.”
For Dan Previti, the hardest part of losing Collington is that there is no rationale to what happened, he said
“Usually in a terrible situation you can try and find some sort of rationale and something, but not in a situation like this,” said Previti, a senior economics and risk management major.
Previti and Collington met in kindergarten and remained friends after graduating high school. In their freshman year at Temple, the two lived next door to each other in Hardwick Hall and stayed in touch throughout college, despite heading in different directions, he added.
Previti attended the vigil to honor his friend and felt it was important to see the community come together for the Collingtons, he said.
“When things like this happen, it’s really the only thing we have,” Previti added.