It was supposed to be your average weekend party, but that celebration, sadly, turned deadly, snuffing out the bright future of Union High School student Jose Mondragon.
Mondragon, who was a rising sophomore at UHS, was killed at a birthday celebration he and some friends reportedly attended in Rose Hill Sunday. It was at that party, sources say, when a fight broke out. At some point during the melee, Mondragon was stabbed and killed; others were reportedly injured.
The teen was taken to Duplin Vidant Hospital, but along the way, he lost his battle to survive.
An official report on the incident was not available Tuesday and repeated calls to Duplin County Sheriff Blake Wallace were not returned before press time.
Family and friends are still in shock regarding the nature of Mondragon’s death.
“It is a real tragedy,” said Union High principal Ed Holmes. “I was shocked when I heard the news. It is truly sad when a young life is cut short, especially someone who had their whole life ahead of them. Jose was someone who had a lot of potential, and we are all just very sad.”
Superintendent Dr. Ethan Lenker said the school system will send flowers to the family and Mondragon will be remembered at the system’s monthly school board meeting later this month.
Rebecca Jackson, director of K-8 Education for Sampson County Schools, said she first met Jose when he transferred to Sampson County Schools in the eighth grade.
Jackson said she tried to develop a mentor-type relationship with him from the first day she met him in middle school.
“I encouraged him to try his best at Union High School the next year and I told him I would keep up with his progress,” she explained. “I met with him several times last year as a freshman at Union to discuss his grades, attendance, social issues, plans after high school, etc. He was always eager to talk and share.”
Jackson said that through her relationship with Mondragon, she discovered that he was a talented artist and planned on entering the military after graduating from high school.
“He had a pleasant personality and he always had a smile for me,” she shared. “I, along with many others, will miss Jose.”
“He was a good kid,” Holmes added. “He was very popular with his group of friends and every time I saw him, he was always very respectful and always had a smile on his face.”
Harder still, is knowing that the young, promising life of Mondragon was taken way too soon.
“I was actually looking forward to watching him grow over the next few years and see him graduate,” Holmes said. “In the right circumstance, I know he would have gone on to achieve great things.”
Instead of planning a birthday party for Jose, his family will hold a funeral mass for him today at the Royal-Hall Funeral Home Chapel, a day shy of his 16th birthday.
“It is just a terrible tragedy,” said Holmes. “It is just very, very sad.”
Mondragon is survived by his mother, Lucia Benitez of Turkey; father, Jose Luis Mondragon Sr. of Mexico; five sisters, Hortencia Hernandez of Clinton, Ana Hernandez, Abigail Mondragon, Yailin Benitez and Eva Moore, all of Turkey; two brothers, Ramiro Hernandez and Christopher Mondragon, both of Turkey; and paternal grandparents, Margarita Macedo and Ricardo Mondragon.
To reach Doug Clark call 910-592-8137 ext. 123 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.