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‘It was just a shock’: Pedro Menendez High students mourn the loss of talented classmate

Friends said Giona Stiles was the light and life of the drama club

Classmates are mourning the loss of a fellow Pedro Menendez High School student. The principal sent a letter home to parents on Thursday saying junior Giona Stiles passed away that morning.
Classmates are mourning the loss of a fellow Pedro Menendez High School student. The principal sent a letter home to parents on Thursday saying junior Giona Stiles passed away that morning.

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Classmates are mourning the loss of a fellow Pedro Menendez High School student.

The principal sent a letter home to parents on Thursday saying junior Giona Stiles passed away that morning.

At this time, it is not clear how he died.

Stiles’ friends who were with him in drama club said it is a hard loss for the St. Johns County school.

Friends said he was a talented actor and could make anyone laugh and light up the stage.

“He was definitely the light and life of drama club. He was a comedian, we all loved him. He made us smile every single day. We just love him so much,” friend Lilly Johnson told News4Jax on Friday.

That’s how Stiles’ fellow drama club friends remember him.

Jalen Hardy said it was a joy to see him perform.

Giona Stiles performs at a show at Pedro Menendez High School. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

“It was actually because he came out of his shell in theater,” Hardy said.

Cheyenne Richards said she was devastated when she found out.

“I just lost it and completely had a meltdown,” Richards said.

“We actually heard from him about a week before and that’s what made it so devastating. Because we just heard from him and all of a sudden, it was just a shock,” Hardy said.

The principal acknowledged his death in an email to parents.

“While we only communicated with the students who shared a class with or activity with this student, it is likely your student has or will become aware of the student’s passing. I encourage you to talk with your students,” the principal wrote.

When asked Friday, a school district spokesperson told News4Jax they could not say how Stiles died.

“I definitely would want him to know that we are here for him. We are not going to let him be forgotten. He’s always going to be remembered as our actor,” Hardy said.

Stiles’ friends say the stage won’t be the same without him and they plan to honor him at their next show.

The principal says he will be missed by the students and staff and the school is providing counseling for those in need.


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Reports weeknights for The Ten O'Clock News and News4Jax at 11.