Family of Republic, Mo. teen who took his own life in 2021 gives scholarship in son’s honor

Published: May. 10, 2022 at 9:38 PM CDT
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REPUBLIC, Mo. (KY3) - A Republic family is working to make a difference one year after losing their son to suicide.

Tristen Shaw was 17-years-old when he took his own life a year ago on Tuesday. His family began a foundation in Tristen’s name shortly after he passed away.

His father, Jason Shaw, started Tristen’s Hope Foundation to help spread awareness and end the stigma behind suicide.

“We have to make people aware of it and get people to open up and talk about it,” Jason Shaw said. “If you hold it in, it’s just going to get worse.”

The family has spent the last year building the foundation from the ground up. There have been fundraisers, weekend coffee sessions with students, and a scholarship for a graduating Republic senior.

On Monday, the foundation gave its very first scholarship in honor of Tristen. This marked an exciting milestone for the family. Around 30 students applied for the scholarship, and each was required to write an essay about how they would use their degree and education to help their community.

“It’s hard to just pick one,” Shaw said. “We picked [senior] Emilee LeCompte, and what a great person. She had a great essay that we were just bawling over.”

The family said a scholarship was a simple way to give back to Republic students. Scholarship winner Emilee LeCompte said she recalls growing up with Tristen.

“He was actually my first childhood friend,” LeCompte said. “We had a lot of playdates together. We grew up together in preschool.”

She said she is passionate about mental health, especially after losing so many familiar faces in the community.

“We’ve lost four classmates throughout the past four years of high school,” LeCompte said. “It’s been heartbreaking, but also very eye-opening on a lot of the things that go unnoticed.”

LeCompte said she is proud to carry Tristen on her journey.

”I want to go into psychology and focus on mental health,” she said. “And this scholarally not only pulls my hometown with me into that journey, but also allows me to carry that message even stronger Tuesday, several viral Republic students also organized a candlelight today to remember Tristen and celebrate his life. His parents were honored that students took the initiative to honor Tristen on the anniversary of his death.

“It’s a really good way to reflect on the losses that we’ve had throughout this time, but also the loss of Tristen as well,” LeCompte said.

Tristen Shaw’s family remembers the array of emotions from the morning he took his own life, but now they choose to concentrate on something else.

“It hurts every day, but you know, we can’t sit there and concentrate on that,” Jason Shaw said. ”We have to concentrate on the good things and this gift he has given us to reach others.”

Jason Shaw said he feels motivated to keep pushing the foundation forward.

”[It is] kind of what I feel led to do and sometimes I feel like Tristen is pushing us to go through it,” he said.

In addition to the scholarship, Shaw also holds a coffee gathering session with Republic students on the weekends. He said it is a chance for many students to gather, feel safe, and open up with others. There are always students that are there that have kind of gone through similar situations, and they just kind of wrap their arms around them and lift them up,” Shaw described. “It’s really awesome to see. It’s encouraging to see.”

Shaw said this opportunity has moved him and now reflects on his son a year later.

”I would hope Tristen is looking down on us smiling because I know he helped kids when he was in school,” Shaw said. “I’m hoping he’s smiling down with a big smile on his face today, every day, you know, through everything we do.”

The Shaw family said they hope to increase the number of scholarships each year. They alsoto open up a mental health clinic in Republic eventuallyublic.

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