Gabriel Stauring, left, and Katie Jay Scott-Stauring, right, hold Darfuri refugee Guisma at the Djabal Refugee Camp in Eastern Chad in 2009. Photo courtesy of iACT

Gabriel Stauring, left, and Katie Jay Scott-Stauring, right, hold Darfuri refugee Guisma at the Djabal Refugee Camp in Eastern Chad in 2009. Photo courtesy of iACT

‘She was loved not only by the teachers, but by all the students’

Mercer Island human rights activist dies in car accident.

Kalli Knight remembers her best friend Katie Jay Scott-Stauring as always being a kind and caring person.

They met in sixth grade at Islander Middle School, and Knight said that her pal really began opening her arms to others and immensely displaying her compassion during their years at Mercer Island High School (MIHS).

“She was constantly volunteering, constantly staying late after school. She was loved not only by the teachers, but by all the students. If there was a student that wasn’t necessarily being treated right, she always was an advocate for them at that time,” said Knight, a 1999 MIHS graduate along with her friend.

Knight sees Scott-Stauring’s actions at MIHS as a foreshadowing of the vital work she would do later in life by traveling the world with iACT, an international human rights non-governmental nonprofit organization that focuses on refugee-led solutions. She made a major impact then and now.

On the evening of Nov. 23, Scott-Stauring, 40, and her husband, Gabriel Stauring, 55, were killed in a car accident in Manhattan Beach, California. Their 9-year-old daughter, Leila, survived the crash, which occurred after the family had dinner and were returning to their home in nearby Redondo Beach. Another man was killed in the four-car collision and the cause of the accident was being investigated by police at press time, according to the Easy Reader newspaper.

Scott-Stauring had just returned to Los Angeles that evening following a three-week trip to Greece to work with iACT at a refugee camp. Her husband founded iACT in 2005 and she joined the organization a few years later after they met at an iACT event. They celebrated their 11th wedding anniversary in September.

“They were people that were just doing so much good in this world that it’s just, you constantly are asking, ‘Why them?’ We are going to try to keep their spirit alive in various ways,” said Knight, who was inspired by Scott-Stauring’s thoughtful and considerate demeanor and became involved with iACT herself. “Now I’m motivated to do so much more because I feel their mission is not done. We have to carry it on.”

During a layover while heading back home from Greece, Scott-Stauring spent a few days with her mother — Kathleen Scott-Goldingay — in London. They hadn’t seen each other for more than three years. Scott-Goldingay is remarried and has lived in London for seven years.

Scott-Stauring hung out at Knight’s home every weekend, and they remained close throughout their lives and were like sisters, said Knight, who lives in the Mar Vista area of Los Angeles.

Knight noted that Scott-Stauring used soccer as her path to earn a scholarship to the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. After one year there, she transferred to Portland State University, continuing to play soccer and graduating with a degree in sociology with a focus on community development.

After spending several years working in the hospitality business, Scott-Stauring began leaning toward helping others who were unheard and giving back to communities that were overlooked, Knight said. It was a pivotal point in her friend’s life, added Knight, recalling her passion and strong voice while fighting for social justice. Knight noted that Scott-Stauring and Keisha Knight — Kalli’s sister and 1995 MIHS grad — walk similar paths in life, constantly working to make the world a better place and advocating for as many people as possible.

On the iACT webpage, executive director Scott-Stauring — who traveled to and worked in North America, Asia, Africa and Europe — wrote: “I feel we are all part of one community and one humanity. It’s a value that runs deep and I feel obligated to not only share this but to help build the next generation of leaders. I’ve always felt that I will leave this world a better place, and each day there is something I can do to work towards this. Educate. Activate. Empower.”

The organization focuses on early childhood education (Little Ripples), peace building through sports (Darfur United) and has a multitude of other programs that promote skill building and education for victims of mass atrocities.

Kalli Knight said the loss of the couple who were so crucial to iACT operations hits hard for the families and the organization.

“One of the reasons why this is so difficult is not only the loss of obviously Katie Jay and Gabriel and the effect that it has on their immediate family, but because we all know how important iACT was. It’s also the effect that it’s having on the overall community and how we’re going to continue to help the hundreds of thousands of refugees that were dependent on them,” she said.

Much like how Mercer Islanders rally behind their neighbors in times of need, Knight said that the couple’s tight-knit Redondo Beach/South Bay community is coming together to support the family. Along with Leila, there’s Gabo, 18, and Mimi, 25, who are Gabriel’s children from a previous marriage. Knight has set up a GoFundMe page for the children at https://gofund.me/2de21819.

One of the donors, the Gomez family, wrote on the page: “Katie Jay and Gabriel were magnetic, spreading their kindness and passion for their work. We will miss them deeply.”

For more information about iACT, visit www.iACT.ngo.


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