WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Galesburg School Honors Young Student's Memory

Sep 23, 2016

The students, faculty, and staff at Galesburg's Steele Elementary School did something this week no one in education ever wants to do. They said goodbye to one of their own.

Jaden Lester, 6, was a 1st grader at the school. He passed away last week.

The Knox County Coroner's Office said while the investigation into Lester's death is ongoing, the preliminary cause appears to be a blocked airway, due to sever swelling of his tonsils.

Casey Cooper was Jaden's teacher this year. She described him as a helpful, caring, and loving child.

"The end of every day, he would always come up and ask me ‘Miss Cooper, can we have a class hug?’. Because he would want everybody to hug at the end of the day before they went home," Cooper said.

So to honor Jaden's life and his memory, that is exactly was Miss Cooper's class did at the end of an emotional ceremony on Tuesday. During the ceremony, Principal Matt Lingafelter told the crowd to live like Jaden.

That is a Hashtag the district is promoting to show honor Jaden's memory. It was even on a poster with of Jaden, that was filled with words related to Jaden and his personality: "respectful", "responsible", and "caring."

Jaden's classmates released yellow balloons in his honor.

Cooper told her class the balloons were like sending a hug up to heaven for Jaden. She said her class will honor Jaden by having the class hugs each week, as well as building a shadowbox that will hang on the wall.

Lingafelter said a "buddy bench" will also be placed inside the school.

"Let’s say a student wants a friend. They can come and sit on that. And if somebody notices they’re there, they know ‘Oh, that student might want somebody to talk to.’ And the others could join them and say ‘Hey, what’s your name? Hey, can I help you?’ And so it’ll serve his memory well because that’s exactly what Jaden would have done. Jaden was that kid that would have gone and sat down and said ‘How can I help you?’" Lingafelter said.