And at Kempner High School, the loss of one the school's brightest students has been tough enough.
"You know, you want to see everybody happy," said student Shaina Ituah. "We don't want violence. We don't want sad faces."
In the school's parking lot, Mandala's parking spot is filled with short eulogies and sweet goodbyes, but now students wonder whether the high school senior who loved Justin Beiber and riding horses at her family's stables led a double life.
"I've heard a whole bunch of rumors," said student Tamara Awofeso. "At first, I didn't believe it because it sounded like something out of a movie theater."
According to a Mexican newspaper, Elisabeth Mandala, 18, was found dead this past Saturday in the small Mexican town of Mina. Her body, along with those of two Mexican men, was found in a Dodge truck which appeared to have wrecked. But, according to the newspaper, authorities suspected the wreck was merely a cover-up for murder, believing the victims had been beaten to death hours before.
"It's horrible. It really is," said close family friend Sheila Mayo. "It's such a loss, such a loss. She just didn't have a chance to live her life."
Mandala, we have learned, was reported missing to Houston police on May 1. Her mother told authorities she had rented a car a few days earlier to go to Mexico to meet up with someone.
According to missing persons, her mother told police that she wanted to be a coyote -- a human smuggler. Her mother also told police Elisabeth was an exotic dancer.
We attempted to reach her mother at her home and by cell phonem, but we have yet to get a response.
"It just shows that you're not guaranteed tomorrow," Awofeso said.
At Kempner High School, where Mandala was just weeks from graduating, counselors are on hand to help classmates cope with the devastating news.
Student Megen Cates said, "Everyone just feels like there was something they could have done to help her."