You may have noticed the picture of a young man taped to a locker across from the water fountain. The young man is handsome, smiling, relaxed, the Manhattan skyline fills background, a brush of green grass is at his feet. His name was Jaiden Juels Colon and he loved his mother, New York, his school, and his friends.
The loss of Jaiden, who would have been a senior this year at EPIC, is beyond tragic. His friends, his cousin, and his mother, Kristal Milla, came together to form a sharing cirlce in November to remember him and celebrate his life.
Trying to recall the first time they met, Jazzmin Brown couldn’t say exactly when they became friends. “We were forced to sit at the same table and started working together. After that we started talking. He was always laughing. He would make me laugh when I was sad.”
Sachin Sharma remembers Jaiden as being quiet. “He was just into his phone and listening to his music but later I found out we took the same way home and we started talking.”
Justin Boodhoo met Jaiden during lunch. “He asked if I wanted to be friends and I said sure. That’s how we started this whole friend group. We all took the same bus and were always together most of the time.”
Jaiden’s cousin Michaela Rodriguez joined the sharing circle and remembered visiting him in Florida, where he lived until he was five years old. “You could never say he was from Florida, he’d get so mad,” Michaela recalled, “He’d say ‘No, I’m from New York.’”
When Jaiden first came to EPIC South in his sophomore year, Ms. Gordon, the guidance counselor, paired him up with Talia Gordon. “We used to have a buddy system. Ms. Gordon asked me to show him around and we became friends.” Talia was always taking care of Jaiden, and even organized the sharing circle.
During the lockdown, Talia recalled, they had to present in class. It was difficult, but they had a Discord they used to help each other. “We did homework and studied and just hung out.”
When trying to remember Jaiden’s jokes, Sachin recalled the times they took his water bottle and kept it from him. “All seven of us,” he said, “he always thought it was Justin, but it was all of us.” The joking around and joshing made their friendship stronger.
When asked what people should know about Jaiden, Michaela pointed out “He was such a happy kid. He was a great student, had great grades. He was always striving to be the best, not only for himself but for his mom,” she said.
“There are days when we’re in class and having fun and I think, I wish Jaiden was here,” Jazzmin said, “It would have been so much better.”
All the memories of Jaiden, his love of laughing, of music, of his mother, family and his friends, help keep him alive. Finding joy in living and laughing is what Jaiden would want for everyone. It will be hard, but that’s what he would have wanted and we’ll do our best to honor him.