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Jackie Paisano, Denver high school student and Special Olympics athlete, dies of COVID-19

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Posted at 9:55 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-22 00:07:21-04

DENVER – A high school student in Denver and Special Olympics Colorado athlete has died of COVID-19, becoming the youngest person in Colorado to date to die from the new respiratory disease.

Jackie Paisano, 16, died Monday evening from complications related to the novel coronavirus, George Washington High School Principal Kristin Waters said in a letter to the school community Tuesday.

“Jackie was a vibrant participant in our school and the larger Colorado community,” Kristin said in the letter to parents, teachers and staff. “As a Patriot community we are sending our love and strength to the Paisano family right now.”

Paisano, a Special Olympic athlete, was featured in a 2019 ESPN feature focusing on stories of inclusiveness through specially-adaptive sport activities.

“Jackie brightened our days, and challenged us to find joy in every moment,” the letter from Kristin said.

The school’s principal also shared a poem written by Paisano that was part of a whole school workshop examining self-identity and how others perceive us. Paisano titled her poem, “I Am,” in which she expressed the feeling to be included and to be known for more than her disability.

I am sassy and strong.
I think about school.
I want attention.

I am sassy and strong.
I feel happy.
I worry about my health.
I cry when I am in pain.

I am sassy and strong.
I dream about doing things with my family.
I hope to always be included.
I am sassy and strong.
I am a person and more than my disability.

In the letter, the school urges parents to discuss what happened with their children and offered to provide support from the school’s Social Emotional Support team and the District Crisis Management Team.

“We will continue to process this sad news as a school community, and again, please feel free to reach out as needed for ongoing support,” the letter reads.