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Penn Hills students give $1,000 to mother of Wilkinsburg massacre victim

Megan Guza
| Wednesday, May 11, 2016, 11:18 p.m.
Tears run down the face of LaTonya Jackson (pictured in white) as she prays with Institute of Medical Careers (IMC) students and staff at the school in her neighborhood of Penn Hills on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Jackson, mother of one of the March Wilkinsburg shooting victims, 26-year-old Shada Mahone, was on hand to accept a $1000 check raised by the school members on behalf of the families of the victims. She is now raising Mahone's 4-year-old daughter, Ayla.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Tears run down the face of LaTonya Jackson (pictured in white) as she prays with Institute of Medical Careers (IMC) students and staff at the school in her neighborhood of Penn Hills on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Jackson, mother of one of the March Wilkinsburg shooting victims, 26-year-old Shada Mahone, was on hand to accept a $1000 check raised by the school members on behalf of the families of the victims. She is now raising Mahone's 4-year-old daughter, Ayla.
Electa Rawls, in glasses, of Duquesne, embraces LaTonya Jackson, pictured in white, while Valerie Fancher, left in pink, 34, of Penn Hills, puts her hand on Jackson's back as students from Institute of Medical Careers (IMC) comfort Jackson on Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at the school in Penn Hills. 'She deserves all the help she can get,' said Fancher, a family friend of Jackson, who lost her daughter Shada Mahone in the March Wilkinsburg shooting.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Electa Rawls, in glasses, of Duquesne, embraces LaTonya Jackson, pictured in white, while Valerie Fancher, left in pink, 34, of Penn Hills, puts her hand on Jackson's back as students from Institute of Medical Careers (IMC) comfort Jackson on Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at the school in Penn Hills. 'She deserves all the help she can get,' said Fancher, a family friend of Jackson, who lost her daughter Shada Mahone in the March Wilkinsburg shooting.
LaTonya Jackson, pictured in white, mother of the late Shada Mahone, accepts a check from Institute of Medical Careers (IMC) students at the school in Penn Hills on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. 'Every time I heard her voice I lost it,' said phlebotomy student Electa Rawls, second from right, of Duquesne. 'You can tell she's in pain.' Also pictured left of Jackson is her other daughter, Merketa Trice, 22, of Penn Hills. On the far right, student Brandy Hollingworth, 35, of New Kensington, hands Jackson the check.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
LaTonya Jackson, pictured in white, mother of the late Shada Mahone, accepts a check from Institute of Medical Careers (IMC) students at the school in Penn Hills on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. 'Every time I heard her voice I lost it,' said phlebotomy student Electa Rawls, second from right, of Duquesne. 'You can tell she's in pain.' Also pictured left of Jackson is her other daughter, Merketa Trice, 22, of Penn Hills. On the far right, student Brandy Hollingworth, 35, of New Kensington, hands Jackson the check.

LaTonya Jackson wants to stay true to the words of her 4-year-old granddaughter, left motherless after Jackson's daughter was gunned down in a backyard massacre in March: “Sharing is caring.”

Presented with $1,000 raised by students at the Institute of Medical Careers in Penn Hills, Jackson said she plans to donate half the money to one of the men critically injured in the shooting that killed her daughter, Shada Mahone.

“She was just a wonderful, wonderful girl,” Jackson said.

Mahone, 26, was killed when two gunmen opened fire on a backyard cookout in Wilkinsburg just before 11 p.m. March 9. Also killed were siblings Brittany Powell, 27; Jerry Shelton, 35, and Chanetta Powell, 25; and their cousin, Tina Shelton, 37. Chanetta Powell's unborn son also was killed.

No arrests have been made, but authorities have named two men in jail on other charges as suspects.

Two others were critically injured in the shooting — LaMont Powell, 24, also a sibling to the others, and John Ellis, 47. Ellis was left paralyzed.

Jackson, 43, said she has never met Ellis, but she saw him on the news one night and was moved by his story.

“He can't get into his house,” Jackson said, referring to Ellis' house being wheelchair-inaccessible.

Many of the students at the institute knew Mahone and others killed, and they held a bake sale as a fundraiser for Mahone's family.

Student Valerie Fancher of Penn Hills said they wanted to do anything they could for the families of their friends.

“Anything at all — just anything,” she said, becoming emotional as she recalled the days after the massacre.

Another student, Electa Rawls of Duquesne, said they hoped to raise $50, maybe $100 if they were lucky. Over the course of a few days, however, they raised $500, and the school pledged to match that amount.

School Director Jennifer Smith said students were in tears the morning after the shooting, and several missed class to attending the funerals.

“We just hope this (donation) helps in some way,” she said.

Mahone's daughter, Ayla, was in the house at the time of the shooting, which took place outside, Jackson said.

Jackson, who has two other grown children, said she and her fiancé are readjusting to being parents again while maintaining a grandparent-like relationship with Ayla. Part of that adjustment is finding childcare while she works full-time. The students' donation will help pay for that.

“Everybody who did anything — whether they gave a dollar, 50 cents, or a hug,” she said. “... It's just amazing how many people came forward (to help).”

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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