NAPERVILLE, IL —Jake Jurinek had saved up his money to celebrate his 21st birthday by attending Astroworld Music Fest in Houston with his friend, Franco Patino.”It was kind of his dream celebration, he told the other kids,” Jurinek’s teacher, Bridget Lescelius told Patch. Both Jurinek and Patino were killed during a crowd surge that claimed the lives of at least eight people Friday as Travis Scott performed.
Lescelius started to tear up on the phone as she remembered Jurinek, who was in her ad copywriting class at Southern Illinois University (SIU). Jurinek was also part of the school’s student-run ad agency, Ad Lab, which Lescelius mentors.
She said a number of Jurinek’s classmates found out about his death via social media Saturday. Many of them spent much of Monday in the Ad Lab, crying, eating donuts and tacos and taking naps as they mourned the loss of their colleague, whom Lescelius remembered as a “sweet soul.”
She said the way the students came together was “a testament to how much people loved him because they’re just devastated.”
“He was such a part of their lives and of our lives,” she added.
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Lescelius first met Jurinek, a junior at SIU, when he approached her about switching his major from cinema to advertising in fall 2020.
Jurinek shared his graphic design work with Lescelius, and she said she could immediately see “he clearly had natural talent.”
“He truly had such a future ahead of him, and those are not hollow words,” she told Patch.
She said Jurinek’s talent was just part of his appeal. He possessed a child-like nature and a carefree curiosity that was infectious, Lescelius told Patch.
“He was kind of in awe of the world still,” she said.
Lescelius said she was particularly moved by a project Jurinek completed. The goal of the project was to try to get people to visit the student’s hometown. Jurinek wrote about Naperville.
“His whole premise was family,” she said, adding that he wrote, “‘It’s more than a place, it’s a family.'”
“He was really, really a family guy,” Lescelius said.
Classmate Gannon McCarty told Patch that Jurinek’s sense of innocence stood out during an ad project they worked on for Tinder.
“He was put in charge of creating a fake Amazon account with all sorts of (for lack of better word) edgy promotional items that he was creating on Photoshop,” McCarty said. “The end results were awesome and hilarious at the same time, as he felt a bit awkward having to explain some of the pieces.”
Hundreds of SIU students attended a candlelight vigil in Jurinek’s memory at the university Monday. The event, organized by his friends, included remarks from his loved ones, music and lots of heartfelt embraces.
“I don’t think I’ve been hugged so much in months,” Lescelius said.
She said SIU Chancellor Austin Lane also attended the vigil. Lane released a statement Monday in the wake of Jurinek’s death:
“We are brokenhearted to lose a member of the Saluki family, Jacob Jurinek, and we extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends. Jacob was a creative, intelligent young man, with a promising career in journalism and advertising. We understand this comes as a shock to many of our students. If they have mental health concerns, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is available to help them by calling 618-453-5371. As we mourn this loss in our community, we will keep Jacob’s family and friends in our thoughts.”
As of Monday, at least 31 Astroworld lawsuits had been filed against Live Nation Worldwide, Inc., its subsidiaries, the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation and Scoremore, LLC. Performers Travis Scott and Drake are also named in some of the lawsuits.
Lescelius said Jurinek’s influence on her and many others will be evident much longer than the current news cycle.
“They don’t tell you when you become a teacher that this is going to happen to you,” she said. “He had such an impact on my life. It was a two-way street.”
Students are already planning to host a gallery event to showcase some of Jurinek’s work.
Patch asked Lescelius what people who did not know Jurinek can learn from his life.
“It’s ok to be yourself,” she said. “It’s ok to be vulnerable. It’s ok to reach out. Because that’s what he did. He didn’t live with fear of what others thought. He came from a place of goodness. His expectation was that you will be kind back to him, and that’s powerful, to be so not jaded by the world.”