The Clinton City Schools family, as well as the Coharie Tribe, are mourning the loss of a fellow student and tribal member, after the passing of eighth-grader Tyler Rivera Jacobs over the weekend.
Jacobs was diagnosed with leukemia last fall and has been battling a brave fight through chemotherapy treatments and hospital stays for the last few months.
The students and faculty of Sampson Middle School honored the memory of Jacobs Monday morning, donning their purple and orange shirts and gathering hand in hand to pray together, trying to find peace in the midst of the storm.
In true Native fashion, Jacobs was honored during a traditional Native American style ceremony Sunday night at the Coharie Intra-Tribal Center, with a drumming circle. This type of ceremony is often held to honor the memory of a lost tribe member.
Jacobs celebrated his 15th birthday Thursday, with his family and friends. Students from school delivered him his yearbook, signed by some of those closest to him, including members of the football team.
All those who knew him said he was very kind and remained strong throughout his battle with cancer.
“He was always calm and had the sweetest sense of humor and remained positive,” Lesa Locklear, Jacobs’ teacher and friend, said. “Every time I visited, he never complained. He would always say, ‘I’ve got this.’”
Throughout his battle, Locklear said Jacobs continued doing his school work and often talked about how he was looking forward to his ninth grade year and playing football for the Dark Horses’ junior varsity team.
“I’m a better person for knowing him,” Locklear shared. “He changed my life and showed so much grace in handling his situation. The love from his classmates is proof of how much he was a good guy. He helped us all see what is really important in our lives.”
According to Katrina Boykin, guidance counselor at Sampson Middle School, the Fellowship of Christian students gathered Monday morning to remember Jacobs and comfort each other.
“Tyler believed that purple represented life after death and called that his color,” Boykin shared as she explained the students wearing purple in his memory. “Sampson Middle students are so awesome and loving, they are just comforting one another. All the kids are being supportive and loving to one another.”
Faith Jackson, community liaison, said all of the Clinton City Schools’ guidance counselors are on hand for students who need them during their time of grieving.
“We are thankful for the support within the community,” Jackson said. “Ministers within the community have offered assistance to Sampson Middle School.”
Sampson Middle School principal Greg Dirks called Jacobs a phenomenal student, athlete and person.
“I cannot say enough about him,” Dirks noted. “He relied upon his faith to support his family through his challenge with leukemia. He was an all-around great guy. Sampson Middle has lost a phenomenal Dark Horse.”
All of Jacobs’ teachers had nothing but kind words about the young student.
“If there was ever a perfect student, he was it,” teacher Ron Davis said. “He was always smiling, positive and worked diligently in all he did.”
Jacobs is the son of Crystal Jacobs and the late Ricardo Rivera. In addition to his mother, he is survived by a sister, Savannah Jacobs; his maternal grandmother, Linda Faircloth, and step-grandfather Junior Faircloth; maternal grandfather, Glendale Jacobs, and step-grandmother, Debbie Jacobs; uncles, Danny Rivera and Mike Ammons; aunts, Dana Ammons and Renee Jacobs; nieces, Idalis Jacobs and Ava Ammons; and step-aunts, Kimberly Simmons and Brittany Drees.
Services will be held today Tuesday at Holly Grove Holiness Church.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Tyler’s family at this extremely difficult time,” superintendent Dr. Stuart Blount shared. “We are sorry for the loss.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.