Hundreds of students gathered Thursday night to celebrate the life of Mikias Tibebu -- an 18-year-old Schaumburg High School student killed in a hit-and-run crash last weekend -- while officials continue searching for the driver.
Banners spelled out Tibebu's name in the Schaumburg High School gymnasium with words describing the honor student and star athlete including "modest," "intelligent," "beloved" and "unforgettable."
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"There was so much about Mikias that made him special, it'll be impossible to describe it all," said Tibebu's cross country teammate A.J. Vetter at the entirely student-organized memorial.
Tibebu was remembered as a role model, on the track and in the classroom.
A National Merit Award winner and Illinois State Scholar, Tibebu was a finalist for a full-ride scholarship to Pomona College in California. His counselor Laura Cerretani said she got a call from the University of Illinois that his acceptance letter had just been mailed this week.
Tibebu died about 12:40 a.m. on Saturday after being hit by a car while lying on Schaumburg Road near Branchwood Drive. Police don't know why Tibebu was lying in the roadway and have no leads on who may have hit him. Earlier on Thursday Tibebu's father offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the resolution of the case.
Because Tibebu's funeral was in Chicago and mostly in another language -- the family emigrated from Ethiopia in the 1990s -- Thursday night's memorial was the first chance many got to pay their respects to Tibebu's family and express their grief.
Students joined in a singing of "Let It Be" by the Beatles and watched a slideshow of photos of Tibebu with friends and family and during cross country meets.
"He was a compassionate and dedicated young man who always had a smile on his face," said coach Scott Lilley.
Tibebu's father, Tefera Beyene, and brother Nebeyu Tibebu spoke to the crowd thanking them for their support and presented a framed copy of Mikias' personal statement he used for college applications.
The 18-year-old wrote about the importance of diversity, having an open mind and his dreams of making a difference in the world.
"Each of us has the capability of contributing to solve the world's most pressing questions," Tibebu wrote. "The possibilities are limitless when we seek the best out of one another."
Friends and family said that is exactly what Tibebu did, constantly inspiring them to try harder, study more, run faster.
"He always pushed me to be better and I'll always love him, "said friend Stephen Piller. "I know he'll always be with us."