Candles in a dimly-lit room, piano playing in the background.
It’s a song written and performed by drowning victim and Edison High-schooler Neng Thao.
The recording, bringing many to tears just days after Thao’s untimely death.
“He was just so bright, you know,” classmate Cruz Rodriguez said.
The two were also a part of “Fresno Boys and Men of Color,” a program within the “Youth Leadership Institute.”
“It’s another thing when you truly lose someone that is so influential in your life, and you know, has influenced people around you,” Rodriguez said.
Thao’s presence was felt throughout the night. Many spoke of him, calling Thao an “incredible leader.”
Thao himself made an appearance, seen in this scholarship application video he made before his death.
Thao was so involved in the community, he won that scholarship before he died.
“Neng loved people, and he loved others and he loved his city,” Central Valley Youth Leadership Institute Senior Director Yammilette Rodriguez said. “He wanted to do whatever he could, so that he could make Fresno a better place to live.”
In a moving moment, City Councilwoman Esmaralda Soria also gave a scholarship in Thao’s name.
“He’s probably looking down on us and seeing how exciting it is, that we’re doing it in memory of all the work he’s done,” Soria said.
Now, the Fresno Fire Department is working to create warning signs in English, Hmong and Spanish, to put up around Fresno rivers and waterways.
Fire officials say, they’ve already seen more than 50 water calls this year, alone, and record-high water levels.
“Even very strong, experienced swimmers have a very difficult time in the cold, fast-moving water,” Deputy Chief Todd Tuggle said.
Wednesday night, these students were reminded to keep their lights shining bright, for Neng Thao.
“Coming together, recognizing all the good that he has done and spreading some positivity,” Rodriguez said.
That scholarship Thao won will forever be known under his name.
Thao will be laid to rest next week.
Reporting in Fresno, Megan Rupe.