‘One of those students who was on the road to success’: Community mourns Lancaster County boy found dead in York County swimming pool | Local News

When Pau Khai was in fourth grade, he made a deal with his teacher that if he stopped drawing anime characters on his homework, he could have a section of the “blackboard” to draw on. He happily accepted the deal, said Ty Fischer, principal of Veritas Academy, where Pau was a student.

“He put so much work into these designs and he was proud of that,” Fischer said.

Pau, 12, of Lancaster County, was found dead in a pool at a York County campground early Thursday, according to a news release from the York County Coroner’s Office. The death was ruled accidental.

Pau, a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Manheim Township, was attending a three-day church-sponsored retreat at Summit Grove Campground in New Freedom, according to a statement from Summit Grove.

“After many hours, Pau was tragically found dead in the swimming pool at approximately 2am on Thursday, June 30,” the statement read. “The fate of Pau and what specifically happened between 6:00 p.m. June 29 and 2:00 a.m. June 30 is unknown and is the subject of the ongoing police investigation.”

“It’s overwhelming the grief everyone is feeling because he was such a good friend to so many people,” Fischer said.

Pau started at Veritas Academy in the fourth year as one of the school’s first residence students, a group made up of refugees from countries such as Burma, also called Myanmar and Congo, according to Fischer.

“He had good grades, had a sense of humor and he was just someone I put so much hope in,” Fischer said. “It takes a lot of hard work to be successful when English is not your first language. He was kind of one of those students who was on the road to success.

Pau and his family came to Lancaster County as refugees when he was 4 years old from Burma, also called Myanmar. Since arriving in Lancaster, the family have been active members of Westminster Presbyterian Church.

“Two weeks ago we had a combined service with elements of English, Burmese and Congolese representing our majority culture and our two refugee cultures,” said Reverend Tucker York, pastor of the church. “His father and I read parts of scripture together during the service, then he went on and sang a duet with another Burmese that moved me to tears.”

Pau was also a member of the Westminster Presbyterian youth group, where members of the group gathered to pray as they grapple with what happened, York said.

York said pastors and counselors have made themselves available at the church to help parishioners during this time and anticipate the next few days will be busy helping parents help their children through the grieving process.

Fischer said the school had never seen a student die and that while he brought people together to discuss how to properly remember Pau, the school’s first priority was to help people. to go through tragedy.

Although school is not open at Veritas Academy, he said staff made themselves available and helped people connect with counselors and pastors. Additionally, he said he hopes to meet with other school officials next week to find a way to commemorate Pau.

A young woman is working on making red beaded bracelets bearing her name, Fischer said.

“In his culture, red is a very, very popular color, and we have a blue and gold school uniform,” Fischer said. “There’s no red in our uniform, so every time you turned around Pau was wearing that red sweatshirt, even though he shouldn’t have it sometimes.”

“He just lit up a room when he walked in,” said Connie O’Connor, an ESL teacher at Westminster Presbyterian Church and co-founder of the refugee ministry.

O’Connor remembers that Pau loved Legos. While playing with his grandson, the two raced to see who could finish their constructions first. She described Pau as an active member of the youth group and said he was preparing for confirmation because he “wanted to follow Jesus”.

“He had two younger brothers, I think he was wonderful with them and they loved him,” O’Connor said. “He had a lot of responsibilities being the eldest of three children, and his parents trusted him and he fulfilled that responsibility.”

O’Connor, who was spending time with the parents after the accident, said they were “deeply grieving” but were not yet ready to speak publicly about their son.

Sam D. Gomez