‘He was a teacher’s dream’

Word spread quickly over the weekend among students at Palmdale High that the school had lost one of its star students in Friday’s Metrolink train crash.

On Monday, students at the campus were “walking around like zombies,” said Ed Vega, an anatomy teacher at the school. “It’s terrible.”

Jacob Hefter, a 2008 graduate of the school, was killed when a Metrolink train collided head-on with a freight train in Chatsworth. The 18-year-old freshman at Cal State Long Beach was traveling to Simi Valley to see his girlfriend.


Hefter had deep connections to the school. His mother, Angela, is co-director of the Health Careers Academy, a program that introduces students to careers in medicine. Hefter’s two older brothers also attended the school.

Teachers described Hefter as a mature, hard-working student who was enrolled in the health academy and planned to study sports medicine.

“He was at college level even in high school,” Vega said. “He was always trying to stay one step ahead of me. . . . He was a teacher’s dream.”

Hefter, who graduated with a 4.0 grade point average, was a valedictorian. He was a prolific volunteer -- traveling as a student athletic trainer for Palmdale High’s sports teams and donating his time to help organize fundraisers for the American Cancer Society.

“He was quiet,” said Tim Klein, one of the directors of the academy who also taught Hefter. “But he was an undercover comedian.”

More than 400 mourners attended an informal memorial service for Hefter at the school’s gymnasium Sunday night. Hefter’s parents spoke personally with every person who came, Vega said. The family announced at the service that a scholarship at Palmdale High School has been set up in Hefter’s memory.

-- Kate Linthicum