‘Bright light’ gone too soon

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Death of chemistry student, scholar called suspicious by family

abdul When Dr. Alhaji Gonzales talks about his son Abdul Juana, he does so with a mixture of pride and yearning.

Pride because he has a print out of all his son’s academic achievements dating back to 2002. The last one on the list, a $500 scholarship, came in the mail on Aug. 19.

But there’s yearning because Juana died on July 30 in a drowning accident his family calls suspicious.

The Delta College chemistry student was hoping to become a doctor. He saw the community college as the first step on his career path.
Juana, a 2012 graduate of Weston Ranch High School in Stockton, impacted a lot of people on Delta campus including friends, counselors and professors. Those who knew him said Juana impacted even people he met briefly.

Juana was an active member of Delta’s Chemistry Club.

“Abdul was a bright light that everyone needs in their life … “I’ll always remember how hard he’s tried in everything from coming to school at five in the morning to use Delta ‘WIFI’ to finish his homework since he didn’t have ‘WIFI’ at home,” said Chemistry Club President Gabriella Muneras.

Juana’s death is a loss to the community as well.

Even though Juana had a hectic school schedule, stayed late and came early, he still made time to give back to his community by volunteering at St. Joseph Medical Center.

“He was caring, had a sense of humor and always ready to assist other students in terms of need,” according to the handout from his memorial service, which described the “star” student.

Services were held for the student Sept. 6 in Stockton.

“I have never in my life faced something like the death of my son,” said Gonzales.

Gonzales said the family is still mourning the loss, especially because of the nature of his son’s death. Gonzales said Juana had never been in any swimming pool before the accident.

In an on-campus interview, Gonzales showed printouts of what was to be his son’s demanding schedule for this semester, including an organic chemistry course.

The pain will be there forever, Gonzales said.

In a memoir Juana wrote entitled “Unforgettable Event in My Life,” he detailed his life while surviving in a politically unstable area in Sierra Leone.

“Gonzales made his move to Stockton from Africa solely so that he could be a support to his son, Abdul, in his pursuit of studies in the medical field,” said Sheila Johnson, an International student counselor and a former professor of Gonzales, in an email interview.

Juana and his father were International students.

The college, said Gonzales, has given the family so much. He is “thankful” for everything.