ELKHART — Sherrie Lovely doesn't want other families to go through what hers has.
Lovely's son, Michael, graduated from The Crossing alternative school in Goshen in 2010. He then joined the Army and served a half-tour as a private first class in Afghanistan from January through April 2011.
On Oct. 30, 2011, a few months after his return to the U.S., Lovely took his own life.
In his memory, his mother donated $25,000 to The Crossing on Monday to help fund scholarships for kids like her son.
Michael began at the Middlebury Crossing his sophomore year of high school, then moved to the Goshen Crossing when the Middlebury branch closed. Sherrie Lovely said that Michael began working at McDonald's to help pay for his tuition. Two of Michael's three siblings also attended The Crossing after he began there.
Rob Staley, executive director of The Crossing, and Sherrie Lovely talked about Michael Lovely and the scholarship fund set up in his memory at a press conference Monday.
“She called me and said ‘I'm receiving some money from the military and I'd like to help The Crossing to prevent — and this is the key thing — to really prevent this from happening in the future to other kids,” Staley said. The money will serve as scholarships to help students “upset about life” and struggling in traditional schools come to The Crossing, he said. Sherrie Lovely said that Michael had wanted money to go to The Crossing if anything ever happened to him.
Staley said that Michael Lovely was an excellent leader at the school and that he and Michael connected outside of the school, cutting trees in the community and when Lovely, a skilled mechanic, worked on Staley's truck.
Sherrie Lovely explained that her son always wanted to serve in the military. He excelled in boot camp and enjoyed his time in the Army, she said, but had difficulty transitioning back to civlian life.
“They survive going to war, they survive the family life, but they don't survive coming back,” she said about military personnel who take their own lives after returning home.
Lovely encouraged families of returning military personnel to be supportive and encouraging upon their return from service.
“They don't open up,” Lovely said. “They don't tell you what they've seen. It's so bad, I don't think they know how to describe it.”
After his return to the states, Michael Lovely lived near the Tennesee-Kentucky border, eight hours from his mother and siblings. Sherrie Lovely said that, though she couldn't see him regularly, they were able to stay in contact through cellphones, Facebook and texting. She recommended other military families take advantage of the technology.
The Crossing's school model is designed to fit the needs of struggling students, according to its website, and includes a self-paced curriculum using technology with students beginning at their ability level.