‘He was a fighter’: Friends remember 19-year-old school custodian with big plans for the future

Published: Jul. 20, 2020 at 10:12 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - If 19-year-old Jordan Byrd walked up to a metaphorical closed door, he always found a window.

That’s what Byrd’s longtime mentor, Christopher Small, said while remembering the teen who had spent his whole life in Leon County Public Schools, with ambitions to become an educator himself.

Byrd recently passed away, leaving a tragic hole in the countless lives he touched.

Fort Braden School Principal Jimbo Jackson confirmed Byrd’s death with WCTV, but said he wasn’t at liberty to confirm how he died. A Leon County Spokesperson said the district can’t legally disclose medical information on employees.

But an employee who works at Fort Braden School who wished to remain anonymous due to school policy said a staff member there has died of COVID-19, and “there are more people that tested positive [at the school] than has been reported.”

Superintendent Rocky Hanna provided a statement to WCTV, noting “the entire Leon County school family is mourning right now over the death of one of our employees.”

The entire Leon County school family is mourning right now over the death of one of our employees. I think over the course of the next week, I along with members of the Leon County School Board and our reopening task force may be forced to make some tough decisions about the reopening of our schools in August. Our thoughts are with the family and friends.

Supt. Rocky Hanna

Jackson had nothing but praise for Byrd, who he called a “great kid” that any parent should be proud of. “That’s what you want your kid to be like,” he said in a phone call.

Jackson said Byrd attended Fort Braden and his mother worked at the school.

When Byrd returned looking for employment, “we were proud to add him to the staff,” Jackson said.

Small mentored Byrd when he joined the Kappa League as a Godby High School student in 2016. Small said Jackson was an instant leader, becoming president of the group during his senior year in 2019.

“He was a go-getter,” Small said. ”Jordan was the type of individual who would give anything to make sure those around him had what they needed.”

According to Small, Byrd enrolled in Tallahassee Community College with plans to transfer to FAMU and become a teacher. The full-time job as a custodian was a foot in the door.

“We were working on getting him to take the entry exam to become a teacher’s aid or paraprofessional,” he said.

Small said Byrd was “a jokester” who would want surviving friends and family to find levity in life and to smile everyday.

”With all that’s going on in the world around us we need more love and positive energy,” Small said.

“And we need more stories like this to tell all the great things that are happening in the world, and I think that’s what he would want.”

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