NORTH PARK — The Northside College Prep community came together Monday afternoon to remember slain classmate Emanuel “Nel” Gallegos, a teen who “wasn’t afraid to sacrifice something about him to make someone’s day better or make them laugh.”
Gallegos, 17, was a junior at Northside College Prep with a sharp wit and a talent for soccer and saxophone
He was shot dead in Old Irving Park last week while riding as a passenger in a car driving west in the 4400 block of West Addison Street. A 17-year-old was charged in the murder last week. Gallegos is survived by his parents and three siblings.
As students, friends and community members entered the school gym at 5501 N. Kedzie Ave., they were handed a white or red rose while a trio of students played ranchera music on acoustic guitars and electric bass.
“He was a great guy. I didn’t share enough memories with him,” said Steve Jaimes, a senior at Northside. “He was ambitious, he had dreams. He always did the best for his family. All the love he’s being shown, it’s because of all the positive things he’s done for us.”
“He loved playing soccer. Everyone at school was petitioning him, like when are you going to play for Northside,” Jaimes said.
But Gallegos helped take care of his younger brother and didn’t have the free time to play sports after school yet.
“He always said senior year he would play for Northside,” Jaimes said. “He couldn’t make it to senior year but the team is going to play in his name.”
“He was very authentic, always proud of who he was. What struck me is he would make everyone else feel better,” said Katie Matthews, a counselor at Northside. “He wasn’t afraid to sacrifice something about him to make someone’s day better or make them laugh.”
Amid Monday’s frigid chill, people at the vigil walked outside and created a heart by placing flowers and candles on the ground.
Matthews also read a college recommendation letter she wrote for Gallegos.
“[If you accept him] you would get a young man who truly values education and the opportunities it could give him and his family. Simply put, you’d get a good kid. And I’m really proud of him,” Matthews read. “I know it’s not fair, I just described to you an amazing addition to your community that you can’t have. You see we lost him on Feb. 25. And I have never felt such emptiness in our school.”
Gallegos’ family has ties to Cienega de Escobar in Durango, Mexico. After his death, that village’s Facebook page posted a video tribute in his honor featuring photos and videos from a recent visit he made.
A GoFundMe campaign started the day after Gallegos’ death to help his family pay for funeral expenses has raised $37,610.
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