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Community pays tribute to popular student

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Students and teachers at the Berkeley Institute are planning a special tribute to Arai Joell-Johnston, who died in a road accident last week.

The popular student was just 16.

Those who knew Arai say he enjoyed football and sailing and had expressed an interest in becoming an accountant.

He was also a promising dancer with the Warwick Gombey Troupe.

Grief counselling is to be offered to students and staff at his school.

Berkeley Institute's principal Phyllis Curtis-Tweed said: “Arai was by all accounts a nice kid.

“He was never in any kind of trouble and seemed to be popular among his peers.

“There have been a lot of students who were at his visitation for the wake last night. I expect there to be a lot of students at the funeral.

“I understand that when the accident occurred there were a lot of students at the hospital who were very concerned and then grief-stricken.

“We had a tag day last Wednesday and of course that was the morning we learned that he passed away. I encountered a few of his teachers who were absolutely grief-stricken from the standpoint of having taught him and knowing he was such a nice kid.

“When we return to school we will all have an opportunity to do some form of a tribute.”

Tonisha Key-Holmes taught Arai English and said that his classmates would also be paying a special tribute.

“My students will do an assignment in relation to him,” she said. “I have 19 students, so it's a small class, and there are a core group of them in particular that Arai was a part of who I know are going to have a real hard time.

“I figured it would be easier to work something around him or the emotions that they have regarding him.

“That will be a tribute just from that class and we will publish some of them in our anthology at the end of the year.”

Ms Key-Holmes said she had just been getting to know Arai and said that it was his smile that she would miss most.

“He was rambunctious and liked to crack a joke but he was a good student as far as turning his work in on time,” she said.

“He liked to make people laugh. What I remember about him, and will miss most about him, is his smile and his laugh.

“It's going to be hard to go back and him not be in my class. He was a good kid.”

Owen Darrell taught Arai citizenship during the last school year and interacted with him on a daily basis in his role as year head.

He said: “Arai was definitely a very popular student, especially this year.

“The maturity he was showing — his academic maturity, his social maturity — was leaps and bounds above previous years.

“He had expressed to the guidance counsellor that he wanted to be an accountant, so we were working on getting him a work placement so he could explore that opportunity. As year head, sometimes it's my duty to make sure students are focused.

“Arai always took my instruction but always had a cheeky comment to come back with; never disrespectful, but just cheeky, which I liked.”

Irwin Trott, the founder of the Warwick Gombey Troupe, said that Arai was a promising dancer and had the potential to eventually be a dance leader.

“What we remember most about him was his infectious smile,” he said. “When he smiled he literally grinned from ear to ear. What stood out in our mind was that even though he was a young boy, he had an older spirit.

“His mannerisms were beyond his age and when he danced, his style of dancing was the old-school Gombey dancing — he was just original.

“We as the leaders noticed very quickly that he had something very special and was one to watch.

“He was earmarked to become a great dancer in the group and hopefully promote to leadership.

“Because of his skill, I presented the opportunity to take him overseas on a trip to Venezuela in 2007 to represent the Gombeys and Bermuda culture.

“I believe he was the youngest person we picked to go on that trip.”

Arai is the son of Maria Johnston and Eston Joell, and the brother of Ashlye, Ajahree, Ajaree, Amaye and A'Jaunae.

His funeral was held yesterday at the Hamilton Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Arai Joell-Johnston, 16, was a fun-loving and popular teenager
Arai Joell-Johnston has been described as a mature young man who wanted to be an accountant
Arai Joell-Johnston was a talented member of the Warwick Gombey Troupe
Arai Joell-Johnston will be remembered for his bright smile and love of making people laugh, a teacher said

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Published April 08, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated April 08, 2015 at 9:14 am)

Community pays tribute to popular student

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