Remembering Juan Bernal

“He was a very cheerful child, always smiling, and he had these wonderful dimples. His eyes were just sparkling…. [he was a] very kind and gentle child” remembers Marilynn Weiland, who taught Juan Bernal in her Rainbow Room at Neighborhood House back in 2001. He was four years old then, and spent the rest of his childhood and teenage years taking part in various NH programming. His mother describes him as having learned swimming, life skills, and the importance of community involvement here at NH. A Milwaukee native, Juan also attended Riverside High School and completed Fire Science studies at Milwaukee Area Technical College. He was enrolled to start Physical Therapy courses this summer. He was a runner, a Slam Poetry mentor, and a member of open mic group Still Waters Collective.

On May 28, 2018, Juan was a victim of gun violence at Kern Park. He is warmly remembered by friends, family, and many NH staff members. Quoted through CBS 58, Juan’s cousin Aly Bernal knows that “this is really a loss not even just for our family, but for a whole community of people. There are people reaching out to me from different states who know of Juan from his poetry slams he competed in, and children he mentored”.

On June 6th, following his funeral, our Teens on the Move program held a Repass for Juan. They also plan to host Juan Bernal’s 1st Annual Poetry Slam next year as a way to commemorate his positive energy and influence in the Slam Poetry and NH communities.

Juan’s family is in our thoughts during this time of loss. Please consider sharing your memories of Juan with his family. If you know any details of what happened to Juan on May 28th, please share with the police.


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