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California University vigil honors teen slain at party

| Friday, Oct. 22, 2010

Ashley Ballard said Thursday that she remembered when Jeron Grayson used to come to her house in Pittsburgh to visit her brother.

"'G' would want me to make him breakfast at 3 in the morning," said Ballard, a student at California University of Pennsylvania. Then, fighting back tears, she added, "I'd give anything to hear his squeaky voice again."

Ballard spoke during a vigil in Grayson's memory at the university. School officials estimated that more than 400 people were in attendance.

Grayson, 18, was a student at Hampton University in Hampton, Va., who was fatally shot Sunday at an off-campus apartment in California Borough. He died when 19-year-old Keith E. Jones of Monessen allegedly fired a shot into a house where Grayson was attending a party.

Police said Jones fired the weapon because he was angry at being denied entrance to the party.

The program was organized by the Black Student Union. The 30-minute vigil included music by the Young and Gifted Gospel Choir and the University Choir, the lighting of candles and a procession to the house where Grayson was killed. The procession stretched the length of at least two city blocks.

Grayson had only hours earlier escaped a six-vehicle accident unscathed. The accident occurred while he was en route to his home in Pittsburgh for the weekend. He was visiting his sister and several friends who attend classes at Cal U when he was killed.

Ronald Taylor, a senior public relations major at Cal U, said he organized last night's vigil in an effort to get out a message that senseless violence must stop.

"When I heard about (the shooting), I wanted to do something, but I didn't know what," Taylor said minutes before the program. "The solution has to begin with yourself. We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard."

Taylor said he attended Grayson's funeral earlier in the day despite having never met him.

"I learned two things that we have in common: one, that we both graduated from Pittsburgh's Schenley High School, and two, that he and I went to college for the same reason -- not to make money but to impact as many people as possible," he said. "Jeron's death impacted my life."

The crowd gathered in an area of the campus known as "The Quad" near a statue of a vulcan, the college mascot. After hearing several speakers, participants lit candles and proceeded to Mechanic Street near the site of the shooting. There, several prayers were offered.

Brittany Pavlinsky, a freshman biology major from Mars, said she attended last night's vigil "to pay my respects." She said she was "very upset" when she heard about the shooting, adding that despite Grayson's death, "I don't believe violence is a problem" at Cal U.

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