Hillcrest Middle School student takes her own life
She was a drummer, a drama student and on the honor roll. She wore her hair in bright rainbow colors, was a Giants fans and liked the band, “Panic! at the Disco.”
Anna “Sage” Schmitt was 14 years old when, on Sunday, April 30, she took her life and was found dead the next morning.
Circumstances regarding the teen’s suicide are unknown, but Jennifer Schwinn, Gravenstein School District superintendent of the Hillcrest Middle School that Anna attended, said in a letter to parents that her death was a communitywide tragedy because the girl was so well known and liked.
“One of our students died by suicide,” Schwinn's letter said. “Anna ‘Sage’ Schmitt was one of our most active and involved students.”
While a motive is unknown, what is apparent is how much she is missed by her friends and family.
“Dear Sage, you’re amazing,” Madi Hinkle wrote on her Instagram account on Monday afternoon. “You mean the world to me. I miss you so much love. I’m so sorry. Boop. I love you. Rest In Peace my love.”
On Tuesday afternoon, her mother Rebekah Schmitt with whom the girl lived in Cotati, expressed her grief over Facebook.
“Sage was lost to us in the early hours of Monday morning. We are grateful for the time that we were blessed to have her colorful, brave, strong, beautiful soul with us as we are crushed that she chose to end it so soon,” Rebekah wrote.
A Hillcrest Middle School student, Anna was active in her school, balancing her interests in band, jazz band and drama while achieving superintendent’s honor status. Anna played at the Green Music Center last January with the Sonoma County Honor Band. She had the lead role in the school’s musical, “Mulan,” which wrapped up in late March. In April, Anna marched in the Apple Blossom parade with the school band.
Outside of school, she continued to hone her music skills and talents, playing in both the preparatory and repertory orchestras of the Santa Rosa Junior Symphony. She took drum lessons and was part of her own band.
“She touched the lives of many while she was a student at Hillcrest,” Schwinn wrote.
Anna was active on Instagram; her account provides insight into what made her happy and sad. Her acquaintances in her group therapy sessions recall her as being the most optimistic among their close-knit grouping.
She posted photos of her friends and family, highlighting family trips, birthdays and ball games.
Last May, Anna came out on Instagram as bisexual, writing, “I’m really bad at this kind of thing so I’m just going to say it — I’m bisexual. I hope this doesn’t change anything but if for some reason it does then I hope you’ll talk to me.”
Photos and posts throughout the past year show a girl who took pride in her sexual orientation and womanhood.
“There’s nothing I would have rather done today then go to a woman’s march,” Anna posted on Jan. 21 with a picture of a homemade shirt that said, “Sushi rolls, not gender rolls.” “Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go to one. Always stand up for what you believe in and don’t let anyone stop you.”
A GoFundMe.com memorial fund has been set up for Anna and her family.
“Anna ‘Sage’ Schmitt’s smile was brighter than her hair and could brighten any room. There are no words to describe the sadness we all feel. A beautiful soul that left us all too soon,” the fund’s description reads.
As soon as it learned of Anna's death early Monday, the school district moved swiftly to bring counselors, therapists and therapy dogs to the Bloomfield Road campus. Members of the Sonoma County Office of Education’s crisis team will be at the school throughout the week.
On Tuesday evening about 60 parents and school staff members attended a meeting with experienced grief counselors who fielded questions about telltale signs displayed by teens who may harm themselves.
“There are a lot of whys and mysteries about this type of tragedy and sometimes we never know, “ said Av Lefkowitz, a family therapist who works at El Molino High School. “Closure is kind of a myth.”
There are many misconceptions surrounding self-harm by children, experts say.
“We tend to think that certain incidents like bullying caused this, but it is more common that depression is the cause of suicide,” said Margo Requarth, children’s bereavement program coordinator at Sutter Health. “It is common and it may be a treatable brain chemistry issue.”
Schwinn said the school is creating a memorial at the campus, which will be dismantled on the weekend and given to Anna's family.
Additional grief support is at Sonoma County Office of Education:
If you are considering suicide, you can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Bleys Rose contributed to this story.