Santa Fe mother remembers daughter, honors her memory with acts of kindness

SANTA FE, Texas – With students entering Santa Fe High School for the first day of the school year three months after the devastating school shooting, one Santa Fe mother reflected on her daughter's life and honored her memory through acts of kindness.

Kimberly Vaughan would have been a sophomore this year.

"She was a Girl Scout through and through," said Rhonda Hart, mother of Santa Fe High School student Vaughan, who passed away at age 14 after the shooting. "She personified every part of the Girl Scout law."

There isn't a day that goes by that Hart doesn't think about her little bookworm.

PHOTOS: Family shares pictures of Kimberly Vaughan, who was killed at Santa Fe High School

"This is my tattoo to remember Kimberly," Hart said, pointing to her left arm.

"It's a Bible verse, but it's also a line from Harry Potter that also reads, 'The last enemy that shall be defeated is death.'"

Vaughan was a voracious reader, a Girl Scout and a loving big sister to her 11-year-old brother.

"She loved to read. I think if she was allowed to, she would have been on a first-name basis with her junior high library," Hart laughed. "We would go run errands, and she would be halfway through one book and then bring another."

Hart said Vaughan would befriend those who were bullied and tried her best to make people feel welcomed.

On the first day of school, Hart said she avoided going on social media.

"My daughter's not here and neither are seven other kiddos and two teachers, and so I really felt just terrible that I couldn't send her off," Hart said.

Hart said she hopes that changes are made to keep students safe and to get guns out of the wrong hands. She said these shootings affect families across the country.

"I just, I hope that people take a step back and realize that the kiddos have a right to live, and they have a right to go to school and not be scared and to come home the next day," Hart said, near tears. "Friday night -- that night we had planned to go to a silent dinner. It was going to be all done in ASL, American Sign Language, and she was so completely excited about it, but she wasn't able to do it because somebody took her and she wasn't ready to go."

Monday, the first day of school, students were greeted with support and student resources.

Hart, a former district bus driver, said she feels for the children who have to return. Hart said her daughter would have loved to be with her friends and would have loved to make new ones.

"She didn't know any stranger and she loved everybody," Hart said.

Hart said her spirit lives in the love that she gave to others, especially those in need. Vaughan, Hart said, is also inspiring others to spread love.

"This was a shirt that was given to me after her funeral," Hart said.

The shirt had a red hand in the shape of the ASL sign for "I love you." It was their last words together that day. Red was her favorite color. It's a phrase and a feeling that Hart hopes people share.

"I hope it goes back to that -- [consideration and kindness]," Hart said.

After all, that was Vaughan, and those Girl Scout values are her legacy, Hart said.

"We've been doing good deeds all over the town in her honor because we've been through so much, and if we can find a little positivity in this, then we're going to do it," Hart said.

"Yesterday we baked a bunch of cookies and gave them out at a town hall meeting. My dad recently started helping a man that lost his house in Hurricane Harvey ... I encountered another person that was hungry. I have all of these gift cards and I gave that person a gift card," Hart said.

She said she hopes other people will spread the kindness and love that her daughter made sure to share with others.

"Even though she's not physically here, she's here in our hearts, and we're just going to have to keep remembering that," Hart said.