A Coping Community

Chris Dunlaevy, Editor in Chief

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(Disclaimer: The author had a personal connection with Miles Dodd)

The North Kingstown community as a whole was saddened after Miles Dodd, a graduate of the Class of 2018 of NKHS, took his own life on October 17th. The football team honored his memory at several games this season by making his jersey an honorary number and sending team captains out to hold it at the coin toss, as well as adding stickers with #56 on the back of their helmets.

Dodd was a positive role model for some of the younger players on the team, like Riley Wojtyszyn.

“If I ever needed any help, I’d go ask him,” Wojtyszyn said. “He helped me with homework, helped me pass all my classes that year.”

 

But the help wasn’t mainly academic, and he was also there for Wojtyszyn as a friend. “Saturdays and Sundays down at DMS (Davisville Middle School), we’d play basketball or a small game of football with him and a bunch of seniors.”

Tyler Khalfayan was another friend of Dodd’s, and Dodd would invite him and other underclassmen to hang out of school occasionally.

“That was really cool ‘cause the seniors were reaching out to juniors,” said Khalfayan, who [felt] that Dodd was full of life and very outgoing, always making everyone feel good.

Nate Martin, a fellow graduate of the Class of 2018 and one of Dodd’s closest friends, saw firsthand the affection that Dodd had for others.

“He always made time for his friends. If I was home now, he probably would’ve came over, would’ve been one of the first people to say ‘what’s going on,’” Martin said. “He always cared a lot about people, gave them rides home if he saw them walking, he had no problem with that.”

Martin first met Dodd when they were 10 years old, in karate, where Dodd had a reputation for his roughness.

“It was hilarious. I think he got kicked out of a couple competitions, they said he was being too aggressive,” Martin said. “They wouldn’t let him compete and he got angry, he said ‘We’re in a sport where we fight’. He was stubborn, you’d tell him something and he’d say ‘no dude, this is how you do it.’”

Jerry Heath became close with Dodd during his junior year and also had a high opinion of Dodd and his character. Heath remembers one of his favorite moments of knowing Dodd.

“I had a class with him and Ms. Mason, and every day at the same time we would always ask to go to the bathroom,” Heath said. “And eventually what started happening is, she would go ‘Miles is it time for you to leave yet?’ and would get in little roasting competitions, and the whole class loved it, and it became a tradition. We’d pause the movie, and Ms. Mason would be like ‘Miles you need the pass?”.

Heath said he cared deeply for Dodd.

“He was an absolutely fantastic kid. He was always putting other people before himself,” Heath said. “He had an absolutely infectious smile; he was never not smiling, and every time that I saw him, I couldn’t help but be happy. He was such a positive person in general, and he helped so many people with so many things, always trying to lend a hand to somebody.”

Ben Huott first met Dodd when he moved into North Kingstown freshman year.

“He helped me move into the culture of North Kingstown,” Huott said. “He was one of my best friends, his mom would always drop him off at my condo complex.”

Huott recalled a funny story with Dodd at an airsoft center.

“My favorite memory with Miles was when we used to go to this place called Extreme to play airsoft,” Huott said. “It’s like, you shoot each other with little plastic BBs. It’s wicked fun. Everyone wears winter coats and as much [layers] as you can put on without dying. Miles used to just go in shorts and a t shirt, and I remember one day we were getting ready to start a round, and he was waving his hand between my gun going ‘try to shoot between my fingers, try to shoot between my fingers.’ And the BB went right through his thumb, and he was bleeding profusely, holding it through his hand, presses it against his shirt, and looks up at me like ‘dude’. Not even mad, just like ‘come on,’ and he kept going. He played for 30 more minutes, bleeding through his thumb constantly.”

Liz Diano has fond memories of him as somewhat of a class clown. She enjoyed him playing pranks on their Spanish teacher with his friend.

“[Miles] would always make me laugh, and I sat next to him,” Diano said. “I always thought he was cute. After my freshman year, he dated my friend, and he went over to my house on Christmas Eve in 2016. He played football with my brother, and talked to my parents. I would see him in the halls, and he would smile at me, and he was just a familiar face.”

Diano also learned a little from Dodd as well.

“Having him in a class freshman year really taught me [to] have fun in high school,” Diano said. “It’s not all about grades and getting into college, and you want to focus on these high school years because they do go by very fast. Even though he didn’t teach me how to study hard or anything, he taught me to live and have fun.”

Dodd was well known for being a loyal friend, and formed close bonds with those around him.

Wojtyzsyn said, “He was a brother to a lot of people. I’d want him to be my brother. Me and him are like blood.”

Martin said, “He was a good guy. He was one of my best friends, me and him and Noah, and the three of us just hung out all the time.”

Dylan Poirier got to know Dodd well on the football team and played with him since his freshman year.

“He introduced himself to me and was just very nice from the start. The group of seniors that he was friends with, I was also friends with, so we all hung out with each other, and we just grew a close connection.”

Poirier agrees that Dodd was a funny person to be around.

“He did very good impressions of the coaches and players, and was just a great person to be around. Very funny. He was very friendly.”

When Dodd passed, many in the community were shocked and not aware of the circumstances around the situation, especially as Dodd seemed happy on the surface. There were many different reflections from the students.

Wojtyszyn just misses him, in the simplest terms.

“[I] wish he was still here. It kills me everyday, it just kills me that he’s not here anymore.”

Martin wasn’t afforded the opportunities to grieve that everyone else was, as he was at a United States Marine Core base in Jacksonville, North Carolina at the time of his passing.

“You lose somebody, you don’t really know what to talk about,” Martin said. “I kind of have a mental block about it.”

He paused to light up a cigarette and then said, “This happened two days after my birthday. You know how I had to deal with it? I just sat there and thought about it. I had my friend [David] Zola, and that was about it. I didn’t have the chance to cry about it, because your around a bunch of guys, and if you cry, you look weak. I just handled it in my own way, kept busy. I was working, I wasn’t afforded the opportunity to come down here and be with him.”

There was some controversy among students about the school not making an official announcement about his death, but most of the people interviewed dismissed that.

In Martin’s perspective, the way they handled it shouldn’t even matter because he already graduated.

“Whatever they did doesn’t mean anything to me,” Martin said. “I don’t even know why there’s a political topic about it. He (expletive) died. He’s dead. It sucks. I think it’s unfair. He graduated one year too late for it to be a school event, but I don’t see publicizing it as something they should have done.”

Most people agreed. Khalfayan said, “They had all the football guys talked too because we knew him really well, and I think they did a good job of memorializing him without glorifying it.”

Junior Nolan Bush, a friend of Khalfayans who was also close with Dodd, concurred.

“It wasn’t really a high school issue, because there was a lot of people involved in it, but he was graduated, so it wasn’t really their place to talk about it,” Bush said. “They handled it well.”

Poirier felt the same way.

“I thought they did a good job of not glorifying his suicide, but showing some attention, and showing that if you have mental illness, you can get help here in school, and talk to them,” Poirier said.

Wojtyszyn was heavily affected by Dodd’s death, and took advantage of the services offered by the school.

“I think some people are handling it really well, and I think others have to go down to the guidance office like I’ve been doing,” Wojtyszyn said. “This affected me and a bunch of other people really hard.”

The football team won the Division I Super Bowl this year after a season of hard work. However, the date of the game created more meaning for the team.


“The date of the game was on his birthday, and we all knew that,” Poirier said. “Our coach just mentioned it to us, and we brought his jersey out, and it really added to the [significance of the win].”

While the community was deeply saddened by his passing, some, like Martin, are beginning to heal.

“I came back, I visited him yesterday and this morning. I had my own time with him. I just wish he had called me before he did it.”

Now, as time passes, the student body and faculty have begun to examine how mental illness and suicide is viewed as a whole, with one of the topics being addressed at a School Improvement Meeting on December 5th.

Ben Huott had some plain, yet meaningful words on the topic.

“I think it just happens way too much,” Huott said. “That’s all I want to say about it.”

Diano tries to find something to take from her experience with grieving.

“I just think we should…(takes a minute) I feel like everyone should start being nicer to each other,” Diano said. “Because I think our generation can say so many hurtful things, and I think that’s a negative thing.”

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