Remembering Jo


Sirawich “Jo” Chantaburanan attends a hiking trip with the Outing Club.

On Wednesday State High Student Sirawich “Jo” Chantaburanan tragically lost his life in North Carolina. Chantaburanan drowned in a riptide while trying to assist another distressed swimmer.

Chantaburanan was a student from Thailand on exchange to the United States through Rotary International Youth Exchange. He attended State High as a junior and was planning on returning to Thailand in several days.

Jennifer Rand, a counselor and friend of his host family, described him as a boy “driven to take every opportunity life gave him.” He had many friends and brought joy to his host family, his friends, and his teachers.

Marianne Bowers, Chantaburanan’s English teacher, said, “He was one of the friendliest students.” Bowers said that he made friends so easily with all of the students in the class and his warmth amazed her. “[He was] easygoing,” said Bowers, “he smiled all the time.”

Similarly, he had a great impact on his friends, including junior Gabriel Keith. “He was just a great guy,” said Keith. Chantaburanan was friendly to all those around him. Keith added that Chantaburanan was always searching for opportunities to learn and gain new experiences, whether if it is to explore American culture or to make a new friend.

“I had a conversation with one of his friends,” said Bowers, “and that friend told me [Chantaburanan] enjoyed being here in America. He really enjoyed his time here, we talked about it all the time.”

The counselors at State High are encouraging students who feel sad, upset, scared, confused, or angry, to seek support in the counseling office. Likewise, the district has arranged for additional school counselors, who “can meet with staff and students for as long as necessary to help process the loss,” Rand said.

The community continues to grieve for the life lost, but also to celebrate Chantaburanan’s good nature and kind heart.  “Jo just wanted to be everyone’s friend,” said Keith, “and he was good at it too.”