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UConn scholarship created in memory of Parkland shooting victim

Alex Schachter dreamed of attending his late mother’s alma mater

By Stacey Dresner

STORRS – Alex Schachter first visited the University of Connecticut at Storrs when he was only six years old. Even at that young age, he knew he wanted to some day attend UConn.

It was not meant to be. On Feb. 14, Alex – known as a happy kid who could often be seen wearing a UConn sweatshirt – was one of the 17 students and staff members killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The 14-year-old high school freshman was one of five Jewish victims of the shooting. Just last year, he celebrated his bar mitzvah at Temple Beth Chai, a small Jewish congregation where his family were members and that actually has held its High Holiday services at Marjory Stoneman High School in the past.

(The others were students Alyssa Alhadeff, Jaime Guttenberg, and Meadow Pollack, and social studies teacher Scott Biegel.)

To honor his memory, Alex’s family recently established the Alex Schachter and Family Memorial Scholarship at UConn.

Alex Schacter, right, and his brother, Ryan, meet Ray Allen at the UConn Dairy Bar.

Alex’s father, Max Schachter and his wife, Caryn DeSacia, started the scholarship with seed money and are hoping to raise $50,000, which will allow for a $2,000 a year UConn scholarship in perpetuity to students who, like Alex, want to become members of the UConn marching band.

“After this horrible tragedy, we just wanted to try to have something good come of this,” Max Schachter explained. “We’re hoping that it will keep Alex’s memory alive for years and years to come.”

Alex and his older brother Ryan were visiting their aunt and uncle, Paul and Patti Goldberg, in Southington eight years ago when they visited the UConn campus at Storrs for the first time.

Alex’s mother, Debbie Goldberg Schachter, who had passed away when Alex was four years old, had graduated from UConn in 1993.

Debbie and her big brother, Paul Goldberg, grew up in Stamford, where their family belonged to Congregation Agudas Shalom.

Debbie passed away 10 years ago from an undiagnosed congenital heart defect.

“Alex and his older brother came up and spent the week with my wife and I during the summer,” Paul Goldberg recalled. “We went to UConn and I walked them around the campus. We got into the dorm where Debbie lived and showed them her room. We then went over to Gampel, and ended up at the Dairy Bar for an ice cream.”

Fans of the Boston Celtics, Alex and Ryan were thrilled when they saw former UConn Husky Ray Allen, who was a Celtic at the time, having ice cream at the Dairy Bar. The basketball star posed for photos with the brothers – another reason that Alex had fond memories of UConn and its campus.

“Ever since then, [it was]: ‘UConn, UConn, UConn,’ because his mother went there, because of Ray Allen, and because his older cousin, my son, is a UConn alumnus,” Goldberg explained.

Many of the photos of Alex released in the wake of the Parkland tragedy show him wearing a UConn sweatshirt.

“The school in Florida was always chilly so he would always wear a sweatshirt,” Goldberg said. “His dad would say ‘Go get a different sweatshirt’ and he would say, ‘No, I’m wearing my UConn sweatshirt.’”

When UConn administrators learned that Alex had aspirations of attending the school they offered him admission posthumously.

“We were very touched and very surprised that they did it on their own; that a university of that size and stature would take the time to try to bring a tiny bit of good out of something so horribly bad,” Goldberg said.

Then, upon learning that Alex, a trombone player, dreamed of becoming a member of the UConn marching band, the band made him a full-fledged member of UConn’s marching and pep bands. Band members at UConn left an empty seat in the trombone section and wore special pins commemorating Alex to events during the remainder of the school semester.

The band even sent his parents a special UConn paperweight that is only bestowed upon UConn marching band members during their senior year.

Alex had celebrated his bar mitzvah just a year before the shooting.

“Alex was a great kid,” Goldberg said. “We used to call him ‘Smiling Alex.’ He was always smiling. He was polite as could be. Just a great kid.”

For more information about the scholarship visit http://s.uconn.edu/schachter or call (860) 486-5000.

CAP: Alex Schachter at his bar mitzvah surrounded by family, from right to left: his father, Max; brother, Ryan; stepsister, Avery; stepsister, Morgan; and his stepmother, Caryn.

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