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Waccamaw High: ‘I will bring it home for you’

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Jamisa Lewis hurt her arm. She wasn’t able to practice the shot put for a couple of days. But she didn’t talk about that when she saw Waccamaw High principal David Hammel after school last Wednesday. The junior was thinking about another state championship.

“Jamisa, is track still going good?” Hammel asked.

“Hammel, I’m going to bring it home for you. You know I’m going to bring home that state title for you again,” she said.

She laughed and gave the principal a fist bump. Jamisa Lewis died two and a half hours later in a traffic accident. She was 16. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Waccamaw High gym, where the girls track and field team received their championship rings in December.

“She was one of those kids everybody in the school knew, no matter what their background was, their race, gender or anything like that,” Bill Peterman, the track coach and an art teacher, said. “She got along with everybody.”

Students gathered in the parking lot to pray the next morning. They organized a candlelight vigil on the track that drew hundreds of students, staff and community members. “Our kids took it on themselves to do some things in honor and memory of her,” Peterman said. “I was real proud.”

Saturday’s funeral will be “student friendly,” at the request of Lewis’s mother, Wanda Nesbitt. “Her mother wants it very much like Jamisa would have wanted,” Hammel said.

And that means it will be loving and upbeat.

“She told a lot of people she loved them. She was very sincere,” said Briael Chadwell, who teaches English and is the yearbook advisor. “She touched a lot of people’s hearts. It’s a big personality to be missing.”

Peterman had Lewis in class last year and encouraged her to go out for track and field. In her first year, she finished sixth in the shot put at the state championship.

“She worked really hard, she never missed a practice, she always had a smile on her face even though practice was tough sometimes,” he said. “She really loved her teammates. She even said that in her last season: ‘The team was like a family to me.’ ”

Lewis, who lived in Litchfield, was riding home after practice with Dennis Britton, a senior on the Waccamaw team. The blue 2000 Toyota ran off the left side of Highway 17 and rolled over several times, according to the S.C. Highway Patrol. They were both wearing seatbelts, but they were trapped in the car. Midway Fire and Rescue removed the passenger’s side door. Lewis was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Midway.

The accident is still under investigation, the highway patrol said this week.

Britton was injured, but returned to school Friday. “Our students and teachers have reached out to him. They continue to give him a lot of care and support,” Hammel said.

“It’s been a rough time, but our kids are amazing,” Peterman said. Not only did the teachers feel the loss, but they suffered for their grieving students.

“She was a part of many hours of my day,” Chadwell said. “She made an impact on the classroom. She just made it a good place to be.”

She was also a straight-A student, Hammel said. She didn’t seem to have the struggles many teens experience at her age. But Chadwell said, “she had a hard shell. She lost her brother when she was in eighth grade.” Lewis wrote about the experience in an assignment.

She planned to attend the University of South Carolina and study criminal justice. “And then she wanted to come back,” Chadwell said, recalling her words. “I’m not going to leave you. I’m going to be back.”

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