‘This was his best school year’: Lake City High School student honored with ceremony

Published: Nov. 8, 2022 at 7:27 AM EST
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LAKE CITY, S.C. (WMBF) - Days after the loss of a Lake City High School Student, friends and family gathered to honor the memory of Ja’Quan Cortez with a balloon release Monday.

Cortez was hit and killed while walking to school along Highway 378 last Wednesday.

Some say Cortez will be remembered for his love of music.

“Dirt Road” by Jason Aldean and “Don’t Touch My Truck” by Breland, are favorites his family shared as they smiled, remembering those tunes he enjoyed.

Others say he will truly be missed.

“Really sad actually, said Kaleiyah Salters, a Lake City High School Student. “When I see him I would talk to him, make sure he’s alright because he was lonely,” she added.

Salters was a friend of Cortez since the second grade.

She recalled how the two frequently sat together during breakfast.

Salters mentioned that’s where they’d share laughs and sing songs. She said he would even show off his moves to Michael Jackson.

As of now, it’s hard for her to think about coming to school and not seeing or talking to Cortez again.

“You’ll come to school every day and like you won’t see them anymore,” said Salters. “You’ll think about them, and won’t get to talk to them and they won’t be there.”

During the ceremony, the community came together sharing love, supporting each other, and commemorating Cortez’s life.

“He was a well-mannered young man, creative, in the arts, loved to dance,” said the principal of Lake City High School, Terrell Fleming. “And had an amazing smile that captured the hearts of everyone, so he’ll be truly missed here.”

Lake City High School Counselor, Dr. Yvonne Commodore, said although the loss is felt throughout the community, students and staff have built a tighter bond.

“Because this is shared grief and we’re grateful to be a part of that, we’re very grateful,” she said. “We’re hurting with them, Cortez was very important to all of us, but I believe we can get through it together with support,” she added.

As they reflected on Cortez’s life some classmates said they’re glad to know he was able to come out of his shell this year and be embraced by new friends.

“I want it to be remembered that he loved music and drawing and that this year was his best school year,” said Salters. “He got a lot of friends, and we made him really happy, and we were happy to be his friend.”

Grief support has been ongoing and will continue for both students and staff during this difficult time.