“She was the shoulder her friends could lean on,” her stepfather said.
Trigger Warning: The following content contains mentions of gun violence and murder, which may be distressing for some readers.
A volleyball coach and counselor from Waukegan was tragically killed when gunshots struck her car. On May 6 night, in the vicinity of 10th Street and Lewis Avenue, Niolis Collazo, 23, was fatally shot in a moving vehicle, per NBC News.
When police arrived at the scene after being notified, they discovered two vehicles had been shot at. According to authorities, there is no known connection between the cars or their drivers, and they were all headed to different locations. A shot struck the first car, but the driver, who has not been named, was unharmed. Collazo's car was also shot at, and after being injured, she was transferred to Vista East Medical Center, where she subsequently passed away.
Niolis Collazo, school counselor, volleyball coach in Waukegan, dies in shooting https://t.co/CjFOdiK0b5 pic.twitter.com/uqdmvWF2UN— CBS Chicago (@cbschicago) May 8, 2023
"As a Waukegan resident and as mayor, I am livid and I am outraged," Mayor Ann B. Taylor said in a statement on Monday afternoon, per Daily Herald. "While we don't know the details of how Ms. Collazo became the victim of gun violence in our hometown, I do know that this senseless and stupid use of guns on our streets must end," she added.
According to a GoFundMe page, Niolis "coached the Waukegan High School boys volleyball team" and "was a counselor for a Chicago-based program called Working On Womanhood and counseled and mentored girls at Waukegan Smith Middle School."
Hear from the family of Niolis Collazo - a volleyball coach at Waukegan High School who was shot and killed over the weekend. The message her stepfather wishes to share @ 6 on @WGNNews pic.twitter.com/IDEeUUSggz— Christine Flores (@CFlores_tv) May 8, 2023
Collazo was regarded as someone who was naturally equipped to work as a counselor by her grieving stepfather Terry Joiner, per The Chicago Tribune. “If you needed someone to listen, she was there. She was always willing to listen; always willing to give advice,” Joiner said Monday. “She was the shoulder her friends could lean on.”
“Her dream was to work with young people and to help them stay positive and make good decisions, especially girls,” Joiner added of his beloved stepdaughter. He further stated, "That was her dream, always to help inspire young women to be better," per ABC7.
I join Waukegan and the school community in outrage and grief over the senseless murder of Niolis Collazo. Though early in her teaching career, she touched so many lives and was an inspiration. May her memory be a blessing. https://t.co/u4g5aVEHFL— Rep. Brad Schneider (@RepSchneider) May 9, 2023
On Monday, the high school campuses as well as Smith were visited by members of the district's mental health response team. "It is with great sadness that we report the unexpected passing of Ms. Niolis Collazo," a message sent on Monday to Waukegan Public Schools reads. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Ms. Collazo's friends, family, and colleagues during this time."
Mayor Taylor stated that she would support the police investigation into the "horrific" crime in whatever way she could. "Ms. Collazo was a beloved coach, counselor, and mentor, and on behalf of the city of Waukegan, I extend my deepest condolences to the Collazo family," she said.
We are deeply saddened by the passing of a former player, friend, co-worker, coach, and family member, Niolis Collazo. Niolis was a beautiful person and came back to Waukegan to help better the community. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mia and the rest of her loved ones. pic.twitter.com/FMakM07AfM— Waukegan Softball (@WaukSoftball) May 9, 2023
Cover Image Source: GoFundMe