EXCLUSIVE: 14-year-old who drowned at Myrtle Beach remembered by classmates and faculty

By: Leah Uko


COLUMBUS, GA (WLTZ) — People who knew a 14-year-old boy lost at Myrtle Beach almost two weeks ago remembered what a stand-up young man he was on Thursday.

Rescue crews searched for days trying to find Jaylin Tolbert, but lost sight of him. On Thursday, faculty and students at Rothschild Training Academy spoke with WLTZ First News’ Leah Uko about why they were making it a point not to lose sight of the impact the teen had on his peers.

"Jaylin was going to be someone. Jaylin was going to improve himself. Jaylin was going to be a super-student,” said Social Studies teacher, Leonard Holsey.

Funny, charismatic, driven and smart were some of the words teachers, faculty and students at the middle school used to describe Tolbert.

“I could see that he was trying to talk to a young lady and he was struggling a little bit,” Principal Michael Forte laughed as he told Uko an old story about Tolbert, who he called “a ladies man”.

"I said, ‘man yo game a little weak there’ and he started laughing,” Forte continued. "So we laughed about it, but he came back though and he said, ‘well yo game weak too Mr. Forte. I said ‘okay you got me on that’.”

The school set up a bulletin outside to honor the popular and beloved student.

On June 16, Tolbert and his 10-year-old brother got caught in the waves at Myrtle Beach. A lifeguard and bystander were able to save the younger brother, but lost sight of Tolbert. This prompted multiple agencies to search days for him, but they had no luck, which devastated his classmates.

“The concept of death it’s just far from reality for them,” Forte said in reference to the students.

The reality, friend Lonny Tarver said was what he blocked out from time to time.

“Just sitting there thinking how life’s short,” Tarver said.

Tarver and other friends Jarell Taylor and Jaylin Sellers said Tolbert was like a brother to them.

“He was a great guy compared to other people. He stayed out of mess,” Tarver said."Whatever I need, I could go to him and he’d give it to me.”

“I remember he used to just give me money, give me candy,” said Sellers. "All that we’d be at the lunch table, talking. All that."

“All that”, they would remember forever about the teenager whose vibrant personality and work ethic were contagious. But they all said the next school year wasn’t going to be the same.

"I was looking forward to seeing Jaylin in the fall. So, you know, I wasn’t prepared for this,” Forte said. "I mean, what principal really is prepared to lose any student, let alone a student that they know well.”

A memorial is scheduled for Friday, July 1 at Greater Shady Grover Missionary Baptist Church at 12:00 p.m.

Facebook: Leah Uko
Twitter: @LeahUko
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