SOCASTEE, SC (WMBF) - Grief grips Socastee High School's student body after a senior drowned while surfing in Surfside Beach Monday, several days after another student was killed in a car accident on Bay Road.
"To lose two students in the same week, there's no words to describe what we're feeling as a family here," said Robb Urbaniak, a guidance counselor and cross country coach at Socastee High School. "But we are a family and we come together as a school and we come together as a family to support one another."
Aidan Mendoza, known as Keahi, is remembered as an energetic, encouraging person who touched many at Socastee High School.
"He just had such an impact on everybody and it's really hard to see his name up there," Cagla Cetin said. "You wouldn't expect one of your closest friends' and classmates' names up there. Because it's Keahi. He's always everybody's rock."
Urbaniak said he watched Keahi grow as an athlete from a runner in middle school to captain of the cross country team.
"He finished as one the fastest athletes that ever ran at this school," he said.
During that time, he said he also watched him inspire those around him to improve themselves.
"He had a way of bringing other people up and bringing other people to his level," Urbaniak said.
Tyler Ward said he ran with Keahi on the cross country team.
"He was a great leader," Ward said. "He helped me get way better at cross country."
During that time, he said he got to know Keahi.
"When you run with someone, it's like a brother basically," he said. "You're running with your brother."
Urbaniak said running was only one activity Keahi was involved in at Socastee High School.
"To hear students share stories of how he had impacted so many people because he had done so much more than just as a runner at our school," he said. "He was involved in DECA. He was involved in journalism."
He got to hear those memories Monday night when he and his wife, a teacher at Socastee High School, opened their home to grieving seniors to give them a place to come together, talk about Keahi and support each other.
"It was so shocking to all of us and nobody really expected it obviously," Urbaniak said. "Nobody really knew what to do moving forward. It was good for people to get together and be with one another and share those memories."
The students then went to Socastee High School to create the memorial now visible from S.C. 707.
"It's their way of displaying their feelings in all kinds of different ways and sending a message as a student population," Urbaniak said.
Students will be able to talk to counselors about their grief when they return to school Monday. Urbaniak said they can also email them before that if they need support during break.
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