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Crash takes life of teen two days before graduation

Graduation from high school is a time of celebration. This year’s ceremony, however, was mixed with sorrow.

One of the 214 members of the Class of 2009, Rodney Aracheal Manderville, 18, died in an automobile crash two days before he would grasp his diploma from ScrevenCountyHigh School.

With the graduating class in their designated positions Friday night at Kelly Memorial Stadium, SCHS principal Brett Warren requested a moment of reflection for Manderville, a smart, courteous and handsome young man.

During the diploma awards May 22, PerformanceLearningCenter director Wanda Parrish accepted Manderville’s diploma on behalf of the teenager. With the diploma in hand, a teary-eyed Parrish kissed the diploma and then hoisted it skyward.

The thousands in attendance and the seniors on the field stood and cheered for the fallen graduate. Parrish would then return to her seat, where she received a hug from school board member Tom Avret.

Manderville died from injuries sustained in a 7:16 p.m. single-vehicle crash on U.S. Highway 301 as his 1995 Jeep left the roadway for unknown reasons and flipped twice. Officials say Manderville, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was ejected from the vehicle near the Sylvania Ford dealership. His passenger, 17-year-old Starneisha Pryor, escaped without serious injury. Pryor was wearing her seat belt.

Investigating the crash, Sylvania Police Sgt. Trevin Moore said the inexperience of Manderville as a driver played a part in the crash.

“It is a tragedy,” said Gary Weaver, Sylvania police chief. “It is very unfortunate.”

Weaver said it appears that Manderville overcompensated when his vehicle exited the roadway.

Warren said the death of a classmate can be trying on students about to graduate from high school.

“It is a great day for all these seniors and their families,” Warren said of graduation night, “but something like this will cast a shadow over it for a lot of them.”

“We are saddened by this loss especially two days before he was to graduate,” said Superintendent Whit Myers, who presented Manderville’s diploma to Parrish.

Myers said he was impressed by the outpouring of concern by the community as an estimated 200 went to the ScrevenCountyHospital May 20 to offer their support.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen the hospital packed more,” Myers said. “He had a bright future ahead of him and we extend our sympathies to his family in this loss.”

In a letter of acknowledgement, the Manderville family thanked the community for its support.

“The family of Rodney Araheal Manderville extends our gratitude and genuine appreciation for each and every act of kindness shown to us during this time of our bereavement. We also give special words of thanks to Dr. Whit Myers, the faculty and staff of the Screven County School System, the ScrevenCountyHospital staff and the graduating Class of 2009. May God ever bless you.”

A crowd filled the auditorium at the high school Monday for Manderville’s funeral. Manderville was dressed for burial in his red graduation cap and gown.

“We came today to honor the life of Rodney, to remember him as our friend, our brother and our nephew,” said Larry Scarboro, pastor of NewLightMissionaryBaptistChurch and the uncle of Manderville.

“I held him as a baby,” Scarboro said.

Scarboro asked people to continue to keep the Manderville family in their thoughts.

Manderville is the son of Sandra White Manderville of Sylvania and Rodney and Dorothy Manderville of Charleston, S.C. Manderville had a brother, Jadrian Manderville, and two sisters, Ya’Lah Muhammad and Hope Manderville.

Parrish said she has given birth to only one child, but considers her students as her “kids.”

“What do you say to a mother and to a father who have to bury a child?” Parrish said. “I am thankful for my relationship with the Master.”

Manderville was presented with several obstacles his senior year and did not have many opportunities to clear those hurdles.

Parrish said Manderville was a student in the ScrevenCounty school system during the 2007-2008 term, but was away from Sylvania until January 2009. During his time away from ScrevenCounty, Manderville was a student at StrattfordHigh School in Charleston.

This left Manderville with only once chance to pass the mandatory state graduation test.

School officials urged Manderville to ready himself for the test.

His reply to them: “Oh, I’ve got this. I’ve got this.”

When the results came back, he did pass. Manderville passed the other four parts too.

“I told him ‘I guess you knew what you were talking about,’” Parrish remembers saying to the senior. “He was very smart.”

At the “PLC Honors Night” May 14, Manderville was honored for having the highest score on the Language Arts part of the graduation test.

The PLC director said this tragedy should get people to rise up and be better people.

“Rodney was always complimenting people,” Parrish said with a smile. “He was a ‘ladies man.’”

Manderville will be remembered.

“Rodney, I will not forget how you sat in the front during morning devotion. I will not forget how tall, dark and handsome you are. I will not forget your bright, beautiful smile. I will not forget your sweet, sweet spirit you have,” Parrish said. “We went home to be with the Father.”

Shana Brown, who taught social studies at the PLC, said the students at the facility on

Pine Street
were like one extended family. Brown said she knew some of the students thought the PLC instructors fussed at them like mothers, but the educators did it because they cared.

“We loved Rodney and he knew it,” Brown said. “Rodney did have it – looks and brains. He was the total package.”

Manderville’s friends reflected on the 18-year-old’s life at the Sunday funeral.

“He was more like our brother,” said Chris Gilliard, one of Manderville’s friends. “He was one of the smartest people I know.”

Gilliard said Manderville was a confident person. Gilliard told the audience about how Manderville showed his positive attitude.

“There was a group of girls that none of us would go up to talk to,” Gilliard said. “He was the only one who would go up and talk to them.”

“Here we have a young man who achieved the ultimate goal,” said Lonnie Johnson, pastor of ShechinahWorshipCenter, where Manderville attended. “Rodney had a passion.”

Johnson said Manderville’s confidence about the graduation test wasn’t the teen being conceited. It rather was Manderville knowing who he was, Johnson said.

“I read some of his poems,” Johnson said of Manderville. “He was a wordsmith. He was able to put on paper his thoughts.”

Many are saddened by Manderville’s passing, but Johnson said the youth is in a better place than us.

“If Rodney could talk to us, he would say ‘If they could see where I am now, they would be all right,’” Johnson said. “He is existing now on a higher plane. You had him for 18 years, but children are not given to us, but through us.”