Faculty reacts after 19-year-old student found dead along White River

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Family and friends are mourning the death of 19-year-old Rodney Mitchell.

Police found Mitchell unresponsive Monday morning along the bank of the White River on Indy's south side. 

His death is being investigated as a homicide.

Mitchell spent four years at Irvington Preparatory Academy, and he forever left a mark.

"We’ve had a lot of kids come through here, and Rodney, he stood out among them," said Assistant Principal Garrett Uhlman.

His former teachers say he was known to be kindhearted and a friend to all.

"Wherever Rodney was going to cadet, that would be the P.E. class other students wanted to be in. He did a good job of mingling and getting to know them and being real with them," said physical education teacher Linda Niewedde.

Teachers and faculty say Mitchell had a positive outlook on life despite what was happening outside the walls of the school.

"I know he tried. I know he was trying to do what was right and was leading by example," Dean of Students Randy Ballard said.

Ballard was a mentor to Mitchell. He knew something was wrong over the weekend when Mitchell was reported missing.

Ballard says Mitchell was back in Indianapolis taking a break from his first semester of college at Manchester University.

It was on Monday that Ballard heard Mitchell was found unresponsive near the White River.

Police have released limited details regarding their investigation into Mitchell's death.

Ballard says it’s disappointing knowing Mitchell was killed because he set an example for others to look up to.

"In this world and the society, we already have enough things against us. For a young man to achieve one part of his goal as graduating high school and making it out of the area he was growing up in and to go to college, he showed it could be done," Ballard said.

Now all they have are the memories they made with Mitchell.

"His laughter, it's like you wanted to be around him," Niewedde said.

The school has counselors available for students, but it’s not going to be easy to move past his death.

"I've been a teacher for 11 years, and this is my first year as an assistant principal," Uhlman said. "They don’t teach you how to deal with this in any college course.

"It really feels like a light has been taken away from us."

Anyone with information related to Mitchell's death is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 317-262-TIPS (8477).

Manchester University President Dave McFadden released the following statement on Mitchell's death:

In the coming days, please remember Rodney’s family and his friends at Manchester as they cope with this tragic loss.

When someone so young and full of promise leaves this world so soon, it is beyond our understanding.

A memorial service for Rodney is planned for spring semester on the North Manchester campus.

The school is also doing the following in response to Mitchell's death:

  • Students, faculty and staff are invited to visit Petersime Chapel on campus at any time for prayer or reflection.

  • Counseling is available most of the day today on campus for members of the Manchester community, and students are also being encouraged to talk with their residence hall directors and other student life staff. Students, faculty and staff can also arrange counseling at a different time.

  • This is finals week, and the traditional late-night breakfast Tuesday evening began with a moment of reflection for Rodney.

  • Students are signing a Manchester University flag, which will be given to Rodney’s family.

  • Staff and faculty are reaching out to his friends on a personal level. We have also been in communication with Rodney’s family.

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