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updated: 12/13/2012 11:39 PM

Friends remember Schaumburg student as bright, inspiring

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  • Jan Dimaano plays "Let It Be" on the piano as other friends of Schaumburg student Mikias Tibebu join in at a memorial service Thursday in the school gym.

       Jan Dimaano plays "Let It Be" on the piano as other friends of Schaumburg student Mikias Tibebu join in at a memorial service Thursday in the school gym.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • The Schaumburg High School gym fills with family and classmates of student Mikias Tibebu at a memorial service in his honor Thursday night.

       The Schaumburg High School gym fills with family and classmates of student Mikias Tibebu at a memorial service in his honor Thursday night.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Stephen Piller talks about the fun times with his friend Mikias Tibebu, a Schaumburg student who was killed by a hit-and-run driver. Standing to the right of Piller are Mikias' brother Nebeyu Tibebu and members of the cross country team.

       Stephen Piller talks about the fun times with his friend Mikias Tibebu, a Schaumburg student who was killed by a hit-and-run driver. Standing to the right of Piller are Mikias' brother Nebeyu Tibebu and members of the cross country team.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Friends of Schaumburg High School student Mikias Tibebu sign tribute messages at the memorial service for him Thursday in the school gym.

       Friends of Schaumburg High School student Mikias Tibebu sign tribute messages at the memorial service for him Thursday in the school gym.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • A portrait of Schaumburg student Mikias Tibebu looks back at his friends and classmates at a memorial service for him Thursday in the school gym. The portrait was done by Olivia Zubko.

       A portrait of Schaumburg student Mikias Tibebu looks back at his friends and classmates at a memorial service for him Thursday in the school gym. The portrait was done by Olivia Zubko.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

 
 

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."

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