Next STEP senior Arbai Abdirahman speaks Friday during an observance in memory of Mohamed Aden in front of the school in Lewiston. Abdirahman was a classmate of Aden at Next STEP. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — You could see them coming from all over Friday afternoon. A group of teens stomped their way down a snow-covered hill behind the Longley School. Another group moved solemnly across the Colisee parking lot. Still more came from the downtown; from the side streets; from everywhere it seemed until hundreds were assembled on Birch Street. 

All told, at least 200 people showed up for the memorial to honor the life of 16-year-old Mohamed Aden, known as “Prada” by those who knew him most affectionately. 

One of two people slain in Poland last week, Aden was remembered by his teachers and his peers at Next Step High school as a bright young man and a creative one.

“Prada was always a quiet presence, but he made a major impact while here,” said Philip Johnston, director and Next STEP program administrator. “I can think of numerous shout-outs of him at the end of the day or the week, often for doing the little things that showed his intellect, his promise and his character.” 

When Aden joined Next STEP a little over a year ago, he was making up for lost time, having missed some schooling. He was also following in the footsteps of past and present siblings who attended the school. 

“He made his own name here though, often for doing thoughtful work, usually with intensity, and especially after missing some school when he was ready to get after it,” Johnston said. 


The gathering at the school saw a mix of emotions. At times it was a sad affair as the group pondered the horror of a 16-year-old taken as his life was just beginning. 

“A Next STEP student, a dream chaser and a beloved member of our community gone way too soon,” was how Johnston put it. 

During the service, one young woman wept openly and was consoled by her friends. Others brushed away tears. 

But Next STEP senior Arbai Abdirahman, speaking before the group, insists that once the initial shock of it wears away, sadness is not the way to remember Aden’s life and the impact he had on the people around him. 

“The best way to honor his death is by living a good life full of kindness, forgiveness and faith that we will all meet again in another life, a better one,” Abdirahman said.  

Like many of the others who turned out Friday, Abdirahman had been friends with Aden since childhood.  Together, she and Aden hung out with a group of nearly a dozen other kids, each new to the area and coming from similar backgrounds. 


“We didn’t have a care in the world,” she said. “Each time we were all together we had unity. To me it felt like a family, even though I had a real family at home.” 

Next STEP teacher Fahim Khan recalled that when Aden first came to the school, he was reserved. Quiet. Aden didn’t say much, Khan said, because he was shouldering the responsibilities of an adult.

“He was always dealing with something but he wouldn’t share it,” Khan said. “So that was hard.” 

But Aden did come out of his shell and when he did, a multitude of talents were revealed, including a talent for sketching. 

“He used to be really good at making stuff, at being an artist, “Kahn said. “That’s something that really breaks my heart because he could have gone on to become someone very famous — someone who could have changed lives.” 

When the service was over Friday, dozens of those who had attended hung strips of ribbon from a string at the entrance to the school. Each ribbon was meant to represent a different memory of Aden, and what he meant to the Next STEP community. 

The loss of “Prada” will always be sad, Abdirahman acknowledged. But it doesn’t have to have been for nothing. 

“His death was a loss to the community and will be a part of our lifespan but don’t let it be in vain,” she said. “His death was meant to make a difference, especially in our lost and misguided community, so please become that difference. You will be OK one day if you choose to be.”

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