Daizsa Laye Bausby was fourth in her class at Southwest High School, set to speak as salutatorian at this year’s graduation and then head off to Grambling State University in the fall.
Instead, the 18-year-old honors student, athlete and a captain of the cheerleading squad was found dead in a Kansas City motel room last week, and nobody seems to know what happened.
Police consider her death to be suspicious. Her funeral is Friday.
At Southwest, students and teachers are heartbroken. Bausby, they said, was the one who was going to make it out of the inner city.
“She was the rose that grew from the concrete,” said Hayley Steel, a teacher and her cheerleading coach.
Southwest Principal Earl Williams said that being in an urban high school, he has lost students many times to violence. But this one, he said, is particularly hard.
“We just can’t understand what happened, because this was a student who was always in the right place at the right time,” Williams said. “She goes to work, she goes home, she studies. It is frustrating.”
Bausby’s mother, Laetta Walker-Bausby, wasn’t ready to talk about her daughter Thursday and only said that she wanted to know how her child had died. Other family members couldn’t be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, Kansas City police continue the investigation that began shortly after noon March 21, when they found the teen inside a room at the 4 Acre Motel at 8220 Hickman Mills Drive.
Williams said police visited the school at 6512 Wornall Road the following day.
Speculation about how the popular teen may have died has swirled on social media among the students, Williams said. “Students are very disturbed by this student’s unexplained death.”
Counselors have been at the school to help students who were struggling with the loss of their friend and teammate.
“She has always been a great student,” Williams said.
Bausby ran track, played basketball and was a member of Junior ROTC. She would have graduated high school with enough dual credit hours to earn an associate of arts degree.
School leaders said she had been offered scholarships to more than a dozen colleges.
On April 15, Bausby was to attend ceremonies for induction into the National Honor Society. Her classmates voted her “most likely to succeed” in the yearbook.
Steel fought back tears Thursday as she talked about Bausby, who had been a member of the cheerleading squad for four years.
“Daizsa was going places and all the kids here knew that, and they felt like she was going to make it, for us,” said Steel, who started her teaching career at Southwest two years ago.
“Daizsa was the first student I met when I came to the school,” Steel recalled. “From the moment I met her, I knew that she was special. She had gone through a lot. Her family life was tough, but she was the most positive person I’d ever met.”
Steel paused, then chuckled. “She loved to dance and write raps. She was hilarious and so, so smart. ... In this district, a lot of kids go through so much and they give up. But Daizsa never gave up.”
On Monday, about 40 family members and friends held a candlelight vigil outside the Foot Locker on the Country Club Plaza where Bausby had worked since August. Those there recalled her bubbly, outgoing personality and her ability to put anyone at ease.
“She was a great person, and it was a pleasure to work with her,” said Logan Zingre, the store manager. “She was a happy person and approachable.”
At the end of the vigil, the crowd released heart-shaped balloons into the air, Zingre said.
“It is a great loss,” he said. “Everybody has been affected.”
Police continued to sort out the details surrounding the teenager’s death. Investigators were waiting for the results of an autopsy, said Capt. Tye Grant, police spokesman.
A collage of photos depicting all of Bausby’s school involvement was posted on a bulletin board in the library at Southwest High School as a memorial.
Steel and Williams said Bausby’s death won’t be easy for students to move forward from.
“Part of what makes this so hard is that she was so, so close,” Steel said. “Close to prom, close to being done, to so many things she was looking forward to.”
Bausby’s funeral is at 11 a.m. Friday at the Linwood Boulevard Seventh Day Adventist Temple. She will be buried at Gates Memorial Gardens.