Remembering Wesley Welling

On April 18, 2023, WHS lost a beloved freshman on campus, Wesley Welling ‘26 — a bright student, kind friend, selfless individual and caring brother and son.

“He was such a sweet kid,” said Allison Jarman, Financial Algebra CP, Geometry H and Algebra 1A teacher. “He was always so polite [and] really friendly with teachers and with the other people in the class … He was always really, really nice — that was one of my favorite things about him.”

Jarman was Welling’s Algebra 1A teacher, and she describes Welling as a very determined and academically–motivated student who worked hard in class.

IN MEMORY: Less than a day after Wesley Welling’s passing, WHS transformed into a place of memory and healing in his honor. Students could write messages to Welling’s family and all those affected, and flowers lined the bridge leading to campus.

“He would come in with a smile pretty much every day, and he was the type of person who was engaged in the class,” said Jarman. “[He was] willing to answer questions, which is always something that teachers love.”

Along with his academic drive and determination, Welling brought light to his classes at WHS with his compassion and enthusiasm.

“He often found ways to … lighten the mood if someone was upset,” said Welling’s biology partner Emily Arana ‘26. “His personality was just to lift people up.”

Welling’s teachers recall his smile and the joy it brought to others. He was a high–energy, intelligent student who supported his classmates, friends and teachers. He often helped teachers with technology, such as projectors and computers, if they needed any assistance.

“[Welling] was super sweet, kind, helpful and positive,” said Deana Fechner, English 9CP and English 10CP teacher. “He was always friendly with a ready smile.” 

Friends of Welling remember him as an accepting and caring individual with compassion that knew no bounds.

“He was different from everyone — he did his own thing and lived his own life, and he was just a good person to be around,” said friend David Alemana ‘26. “There’s no one like him. There’s definitely people who make people feel special and welcome, but no one did it like Welling. He was just a great kid [and] a great person.”

Welling’s Biology teacher Kayla Maxedon remembers his welcoming nature [and] sense of humor. Welling was a student that stood out as being excited to learn and willing to connect with his peers.

“He was just a very accepting person, [and] as a teacher, I always look for those students,” said Maxedon. “He didn’t lose that childlike wonder which I love. He didn’t lose that ability to be just silly.”

SHINING BRIGHT: The corner of Westlake Blvd. and Lakeview Canyon Rd. is illuminated by a memorial in memory of Wesley Welling. Students and community members gathered at the corner the night of Welling’s passing to grieve and honor his legacy together.

After Welling’s passing, the Thousand Oaks and WHS communities demonstrated vast support for Welling, his family and those who knew him by holding candlelit vigils, raising over $200,000 for memorial funds on, writing well wishes on posters across campus and leaving flowers along the WHS bridge.

On April 22, the WHS community gathered to work on a healing garden dedicated to Welling and his memory. Attendees helped prepare the hillside for the plants and painted rocks that will decorate the garden.

“The flowers that were on the corner of the street from his memorial were moved to the garden site,” said Jenn Boyd, AP Environmental Science and Honors Environmental Field Studies teacher. “People started to place his flowers from the memorial onto the hillside. It made sense to put them all around his garden to recycle the nutrients back into the Earth.” 

While Boyd did not have Welling as a student, she remembers him and his friends for how they spent their lunchtimes on campus.

“Every day, [Welling and his friends] would eat lunch outside of my classroom and then pull weeds in the garden,” said Boyd. “Even when I wasn’t there [and] even in the rain, they really enjoyed working in the garden together.”

The day after Welling’s passing, Boyd told her students about his helpfulness and brought her AP Environmental Science students outside to pull weeds in the garden.

PLACE OF HEALING: Work on the healing garden in honor of Wesley Welling began on April 22 in which students could decorate rocks or help prepare the soil for the plants. Flowers from Welling’s memorial were used as compost for the soil, and many rocks were decorated in Welling’s favorite colors, blue and orange, or included his name or initials.

“We all started to work on the hillside to get the weeds out,” said Boyd. “[The students’] faces changed, they started to talk and they felt motivated to pull weeds together like [Welling and his friends] did. I knew then that the hillside was meant to be a garden for him — a memorial garden.”

The garden will house blue–eyed grass and ceanothus, a blue flower, in honor of Welling’s favorite color. His second favorite color was orange, which will be present when the monarch butterflies visit the garden after the flowers bloom.

“While the loss of [Welling] was a tragedy, the way his garden brought people together and continues to draw people in has helped us heal,” said Boyd. “His helpfulness is really what is coming through, and this garden represents that.”

Those who knew Welling hope the kindness he demonstrated to all at WHS will continue to spread and that people will take this time to remember how valuable life is.

“I never heard him say a mean thing about anyone … He was always so nice to everyone around him,” said Jarman. “I want people to remember how precious our lives are.”


Special thanks to Kalia Bell and Sania Gali for contributing interviews for the story