Julia Black, 16, was a junior at Harrison School for the Arts and a member of the Lakeland High School varsity volleyball team. | Harrison School for the Arts

High school junior Julia Black, 16, played in a varsity volleyball game on Wednesday and attended all of her classes on Friday. Then suddenly, inexplicably, she was gone.

Polk County Fire Rescue was dispatched to the teen’s home at 8:23 p.m. on Friday for a medical assistance call. However, paramedics were unable to revive her. In Black’s obituary, her family said she suffered a sudden cardiac arrest caused by a pericardial infection. 

“We are reeling,” Harrison School for the Arts counselor Amy Benningfield said of students and staff. “Julia was an amazing student in every way. She was exceptional academically, musically and in athletics, leadership and friendship. She was well-liked by students and teachers and will be greatly missed at Harrison.”

Black was the lead oboist in the Harrison orchestra and a key member of Lakeland High School’s varsity volleyball team. The 5-foot-11 middle blocker earned “player of the game” recognition three times this season. She was also vice president of Harrison’s Arts Council and vice president of the National English Honor Society. 

Harrison and Lakeland High had grief counselors on campus Monday for stunned students and staff. 

Her volleyball teammates are channeling some of their shock and grief into action by urging people to participate in the American Heart Association’s “Heart Walk” on Saturday.

If you go

What: 2023 Polk County “Heart Walk” to benefit the American Heart Association

When: Saturday, Nov. 4. Event opens at 8 a.m. and walk starts at 9 a.m.

Where: Joker Marchant Stadium, 2301 Lakeland Hills Boulevard, Lakeland, FL 33805

Register: Team Julia

Route length: 3 miles

Volleyball teammate Caroline Mank has set up “Team Julia” where people can donate or sign up to walk in the event at Joker Marchant Stadium, 2301 Lakeland Hills Blvd.

The event opens at 8 a.m. and the 3-mile walk begins at 9 a.m. Pets are not allowed. There is no cost to register, although walkers usually raise funds for the cause. Participants will get a free T-shirt.

Lakeland High School shared the details on its Facebook account Tuesday saying, “This is a great way to support and remember Julia!”

A funeral service will be Thursday at 10 a.m. at St. Paul Lutheran Church, 4450 Harden Blvd, Lakeland, FL 33813. Private burial will follow at Oak Hill Burial Park.

Her family has set up the Julia C. Black Memorial Fund at the GiveWell Community Foundation to honor her passion for the arts.

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Cindy Glover moved to Lakeland in 2021 after spending two decades in South Florida. She was a crime reporter, City Hall reporter and chief political writer for newspapers including the Albuquerque Journal and South Florida Sun-Sentinel. She spent a year as a community engagement coordinator for the City of Lakeland before joining LkldNow. Reach her at cindy@lkldnow.com or 561-212-3429.

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