There were days when North Augusta High School Principal Todd Bornscheuer would give Uriel Diaz a ride home, often because he was so into his artwork that he missed the bus.
“He would just get so into his artwork that sometimes he would tune out the world,” Bornscheuer said of the 15-year-old.
And then there were the days that Uriel wasn’t able to come to school because he was out working to support his family, with his father out of the country.
More than 30 of his Navy Junior ROTC classmates attended Uriel’s funeral Thursday as honorary pallbearers, Bornscheuer said. Uriel drowned Easter Sunday while swimming with his cousin and a friend at West Dam Recreation Area in Thurmond Lake.
Bornscheuer said that because Diaz missed so much school, many of the students said they never got a chance to know him. Many described Diaz as a “gentle giant,” the principal said.
“He was just a quiet kid that was trying to do right by his family,” he said. “His commitment to supporting his family financially kept him from being able to be involved in school activities.”
Students have come together to support Uriel’s family by collecting money. Ebenezer Iglesia, a North Augusta church, paid for his funeral, along with help from his uncles.
“I was just overwhelmed to know that they acted so fast and in such a great way,” Bornscheuer said of the church. “It’s just awesome.”
Money is also being collected to help pay bills for the family such as rent and utility, and to provide food.
Those who would like to donate money to a specific fund can contact Sherida Stroman, a social worker for Aiken County schools, or Kay McEntire, a school district teacher.
Stroman said she knew Uriel for two years.
“He was very gracious,” she said, adding that he would always extend his hand and say thank you before she left from visiting him.
“He had a lot of challenges, trying to make sure his family needs were met,” she said. “He was still trying to stay in school, and it was a struggle for him.”