The John Adams High School graduate who died four years ago in an AirTrain accident will be forever remembered at his alma mater, thanks to a new electric sign raised outside its main entrance in his honor last week.
Kelvin DeBourgh Jr., who graduated from the Ozone Park school in 1997, died when he was conducting a test run on the Howard Beach segment of the train on Sept. 27, 2002. Large, unsecured concrete blocks, intended to simulate the weight of passengers, crushed the 23-year-old Jamaica native.
Three years ago, an anonymous donor contributed a considerable sum to the school for a project that would memorialize DeBourgh. After further fundraising efforts since by both the school community and the Richmond Hill South Civic Association, which included holding a dance at the school, selling water bottles on graduation day, and partnering with McDonald’s to collect a percentage of the restaurant’s proceeds for a day, they finally had enough money to construct the sign.
The offices of Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Ozone Park), state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) and Assemblywoman Michele Titus (D-Far Rockaway) also contributed money.
The sign, which is visible from Rockaway Boulevard, will announce school plays, sporting events, open school nights and other upcoming events, according to John Adams Principal Grace Zwillenberg. She added that it will allow parents to become better aware of the school’s goings-on and help bridge the school and the community.
While those who gathered for the dedication ceremony on Friday morning were excited about what the sign will offer, DeBourgh was remembered with heavy hearts. “We call our Adams the Adams Family because our kids are our kids. When we lose one of our own, we really feel it,” Zwillenberg said.
Christina Rojas said of DeBourgh, her nephew: “He had a warm heart, a great personality and a smile that could light up a room.”
As a student at Adams, DeBourgh excelled at football and loved repairing and retooling stereo equipment, said his father, Kelvin DeBourgh Sr. Along with Rojas and DeBourgh Sr., over 20 of DeBourgh Jr.’s family members and friends attended the dedication ceremony, including his 5-year-old daughter, Avion DeBourgh.
Kelvin DeBourgh Sr. said: “He gave me strength. I’m still very proud of my son.”