Brexi’s legacy will live on

By Norah Machia

The Syracuse Housing Authority will dedicate a youth center this month to honor Brexialee “Brexi” Torres-Ortiz, an 11-year-old girl whose life was tragically lost earlier this year.

The agency has also started accepting donations for a $5,000 scholarship that will be awarded in her memory to a public housing resident who plans to enroll in a 2-year or 4-year college.

Brexi was an unintended victim of a drive-by shooting on January 16 when she was walking home on Oakwood Avenue from a neighborhood store just a short distance away. The young girl had gone to buy a gallon of milk for her family to make homemade macaroni and cheese, a recipe her grandmother was teaching her that day.

“We met with the parents after the shooting and told them we wanted to honor her legacy,” said SHA Executive Director William Simmons. “She was just an incredible young lady.”

Brexi was a sixth-grade student at Blodgett Middle School, where she was an honor student, captain of the dance team and president of the student council. One of her favorite subjects was math.

The Syracuse Housing Authority will hold a dedication ceremony at 4 p.m. on June 5 at the youth center in the Central Village apartment complex. Known as the “Central Village Boys & Girls Club,” it will be renamed the “Brexialee Torres-Ortiz Building at Central Village.”

The building at 212 Van Buren Steet is owned by the housing authority, which has an arrangement with the Boys & Girls Club of Syracuse to offer youth programming on site.

Brexi spent a lot of time at the youth center, which offers a safe space for children to complete their homework, participate in youth recreational activities and play soccer outside on a small field, said Simmons.

“We’ve had this center for a long time,” he said, noting it’s been operated as a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Syracuse for years. It was a place where Brexi spent countless hours with other children from the public housing development.

“Everyone at the Boys and Girls Club spoke so highly of her, she was so helpful to others,” Simmons said. “Even the custodian remarked how Brexi would always help clean up at the end of the day.”

As part of the dedication, a plaque with Brexi’s picture, along with a description of her character, will be hung inside the center.

Brexi was often seen skipping down the sidewalk, and “you have to see the world in a certain way” to always be skipping, he said. Her tragic death “left a profound impact on us all,” Simmons added.

The $5,000 scholarship will be given to a public housing resident who embodies “the extraordinary spirit” of the young girl whose life was tragically cut short, he said.

The “Brexialee Torres-Ortiz Memorial Scholarship” was established by the Syracuse Housing Authority as a way to ensure Brexi’s name will never be forgotten. Plans call for the first scholarship recipient to be announced on July 30, the last day of the SHA annual basketball tournament.

“The loss of Brexialee has been devastating for our community, and the SHA wants to honor and celebrate the life of such a promising young lady in whatever way we can,” the agency stated. “With the blessing of her family, we hope to assist a young person who wishes to continue their education in the same way that Brexi would have.”

Donations to support the scholarship fund in memory of Brexi may be made by following this link: