Edison High campus mourns death of valedictorian Neng Thao

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Neng's favorite songs comforted classmates Monday in the quad area at Edison High, and some of his closest friends and classmates gathered for a moment of silence. (KFSN)

Students and staff at Edison High School remembered valedictorian Neng Thao who drowned over the weekend in the San Joaquin River.

Neng was bound for UC Berkeley as a pre-med student. Instead, the principal will present his diploma to his parents at his funeral, and his death has so many students heartbroken.

Neng's favorite songs comforted classmates Monday in the quad area at Edison High.

"That was the last thing that I did with Neng," his friend Joshua Nuesca said. "That was the last song that I played with Neng. Neng was just an awesome guy, you know."

"If Neng was here, he would always keep us up and always have us look on the brighter side of things," friend Dimitri Lee said. "But it's sad that he's gone, and there's no one to guide us anymore."

During first period some of Neng's closest friends and classmates gathered for a moment of silence. Sunshine Thor lost her cousin and chemistry lab partner. She and others made signs honoring the student who led by example.

"Especially for our Hmong class, he was a big leader," she said. "Everyone knew him and everyone wanted to be just like him because he was a simple person, but he had so many aspirations and he accomplished many things that people couldn't."

Principal Lindsay Sanders said Neng he was far more than book smart. He had passion and wisdom and maturity that made him so well-rounded.

"The definition of paper and academics, that's great," she said. "But he really is an all around incredible kid, and it's not like he sat in the shadows and was working really hard. He was out there working for the betterment of our community at Edison. But beyond those walls and that's hard for a lot of kids to say they've accomplished, but he certainly has."

Friends say he was classier and respectful than most his age.

"He had the best manners. Whenever I'd take him to meet my parents, he would always greet them, he would always be smiling," friend Marlo Hernandez said. "So, that inspired me to always be the same when I meet new people."

Neng's longtime friends are still hoping to celebrate their upcoming graduation, although what was so happy will now be bittersweet.

"Neng would've wanted us to be happy and to go on living and honoring his memory and enjoying our lives," Sixto Maldonado said.

School leaders plan to find some way to honor him at graduation. Neng's family doesn't want his death overshadowing the success of those graduating.

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