Temecula campus feels the loss of one of their best
“You could tell Frank Varela was going to be one of the best we had,” says John Hall, Dean of Student Services. It was a feeling shared by just about everyone who got to know Frank, while the 32-year-old was a Medical Assisting (MA) student at the Temecula campus.
Frank’s life came to a tragic end on Saturday, Sept. 20th, when he was shot in the crossfire of a dispute between two motorcycle clubs gathered in Corona, Calif. Two other gunshot victims, including his brother, Lano, survived the conflict between the Mongols and Hell’s Angels that day.
Frank, who was the first Varela to finish high school, served four years in the Navy as a firefighter and, at one time, worked as a correctional officer. Frank’s mother insists that Frank was not affiliated with either motorcycle club. He often rode his 2013 Harley with several childhood friends, many of whom were members of the Mongols.
Frank thought a lot about his influence on his 7-year-old daughter, Alana Marie. “He had a very close relationship with his daughter,” says Geneva Solis, a good friend of Frank’s at SJVC. “He was always talking about trying to raise her right.”
Frank Varela carried that kind of sensitivity for others with him at all times. He was the ‘big brother’ to everyone in his family – even to those siblings who were older. He enjoyed being the provider of whatever they needed. That generous spirit touched everyone in his orbit.
“In class he was beyond smart; everything had to be perfect,” says Geneva. “I would always ask him for help and when he was done explaining [something], he would ask, ‘Do you get it now…are you sure?'”
Frank, who maintained a 4.0 GPA in his MA program, “was a stellar evening student on our campus,” says Robyn Whiles, Campus Director. He was an active ASB member, a New Year, New Career Scholarship recipient and had a record of perfect attendance.
His muscular, tattooed appearance might have been a little foreboding on someone else, but Frank had a way about him that put others at ease immediately.
“He was very charismatic, confident; one of those people you could talk to and after 5 minutes, you felt he knew you better than people who had known you for years,” says John Hall. “Whether it was someone’s first day or last day, he would go and check up on them and see how they were doing.”
Frank also enjoyed being the center of attention. “He loved all eyes on him and loved to make people laugh,” says Geneva. “He was kind of a big deal and he knew it. He always wanted to work hard and then have fun.”
For this past week, the Temecula campus has conducted a Dress-down Day and bake sale to raise money for Frank’s family. So far they have collected over $500 to donate. Doing something positive is helping students soften their grief, just a little.
“He made school better,” says Geneva. “It’s so sad to see someone with so much potential, love and dedication gone. It really breaks my heart.”
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