WAUKEGAN — A Waukegan High School volleyball coach was shot and killed while driving over the weekend.
Niolis Collazo, 23, of Waukegan, was killed in a shooting on 10th Street and Lewis Avenue in Waukegan around 10:45 p.m. Saturday. Police said Collazo’s car was one of two vehicles struck by gunfire.
According to officials, a man, who occupied the first vehicle that was hit, was not injured. The second vehicle was occupied by Collazo, who was struck by the gunfire.
She was transported to Vista East Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.
The school sent out the following email Monday to its community confirming Collazo’s death, saying, in part:
It is with great sadness that we report the unexpected passing of Ms. Niolis Collazo. Ms. Collazo worked as an assistant boys volleyball coach at Waukegan High School. She was also a counselor with Youth Guidance’s Working On Womanhood program, where she worked with young ladies at Smith Middle School.
According to the district’s spokesperson, Collazo coached the boy’s volleyball team and graduated from the high school in 2018. In addition, she was a counselor for a Chicago-based program called “Working On Womanhood” and counseled and mentored girls at Waukegan Smith Middle School.
Last December, Collazo graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Her goal, according to her stepfather Terry Joiner, was to make her way back to Waukegan to give back to the community that helped raise her.
Now that same community is mourning her loss.
“We’re hanging in there,” Joiner said. “We’re a close family, so we’re leaning on each other.”
Collazo’s stepfather recalled his fondest memories with the late volleyball coach.
“As that little girl, she was always smiling, always cheerful,” he said.
According to Joiner, Collazo was leaving North Chicago and heading home when the shooting occurred.
Also impacted by the deadly shooting was Waukegan Mayor Ann Taylor, who released a statement, saying, in part:
I am livid, and I am outraged. 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.”
Counselors will be available for students and staff at Waukegan High School’s Washington and Brookside campuses, as well as Smith Middle School Monday, according to the school’s statement.
An autopsy was scheduled for Monday at the Lake County Coroner’s Office.
The family says they’re overwhelmed with the love and support they’ve received thus far, but hope the loss sends a bigger message.
“It just feels like the world is upside down,” Joiner said. “We just hope that people can figure it out. That we can help one another.”