Students cement memory of classmate

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 14, 2002


RESERVE – Seniors at Reserve Christian Academy took time out of their end-of-school excitement to reflect on one classmate who missed out on her graduation – Stephanie “Nikki” Wilking,

A prayer garden and meditation center is taking form behind the school, near the ball field. On Friday, seniors pressed their handprints into a concrete slab which will, by Sunday, include a six-foot angel and benches for contemplation. Funding for the center stemmed from a $1,200 donation by Progressive Technology of Virginia, a manufacturer of bulletproof vests.

“It will be secluded, yet open to all the students,” said principal Phil Brown.

On Jan. 27, 1996, Nikki, the daughter of Paula and Kevin Wilking, was a normal, happy 12-year-old, who loved sports and school. The shooting death that day of St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Barton Granier awakened a driving, determined spirit within her, few could have guessed.

Granier had been in pursuit of an armed robbery suspect in LaPlace when he was shot and killed. Wilking, in hearing of the shooting, thought of Granier’s children now having to go on without their father.

In a singular act of maturity and sensitivity, she established Kids For Kops, a non-profit organization which raises money for bulletproof vests. Before long, her energy and inspiration raised the money to outfit every deputy on the St. John the Baptist Sheriff’s Office with vests.

Kids for Kops gained national recognition over the years, and she traveled to Washington D.C. to the Law Enforcement Memorial with Granier’s family to lay flowers at his name.

The department, in return, practically “adopted” Wilking. Most deputies carried photos of her in their units, and her death in a sudden attack of meningitis on Feb. 27, 2001, shocked and devastated the entire department, especially her closest friend on the force, D.A.R.E. officer Lt. Mike Hoover.

Nikki’s mother, Paula, worked with the school to establish the prayer garden and center, which is in sight of the ball field, which itself was recently renamed in memory of Nikki.

Her classmates, likewise, remembered her well.

“We miss her,” said Tiffany Pousson, “She was an awesome person. It’s still not like real for us.”

Renee Delaneauville added, “I think this is just a really awesome way for everyone to remember her by.”

Andrea Louque said, “She was always smiling and so pretty. She never had a bad day.”

And Jennifer Jackson remembered her outgoing manner. “She always had a smile.”