Heartbroken Community Mourns the Tragic Drowning of Teen Whose Acceptance to Cornell Went Viral

Heartbroken Community Mourns the Tragic Drowning of Teen Whose Acceptance to Cornell Went Viral

Winston "Sammy" Perez-Ventura was overcome by waterfalls near his school's Ithaca campus

Published August 7, 2017

A 17-year-old college-bound student who was videotaped joyously celebrating his acceptance to his dream Ivy League college drowned in Ithaca just weeks before he was set to start classes at Cornell University. 

Winston “Sammy” Perez-Ventura, 17, was in Ithaca for a freshman summer program. On Saturday, he went swimming in Fall Creek near Ithaca Falls around 2:30 p.m. and never resurfaced, reported New York Daily News.

Troopers discovered Perez-Ventura’s body around 7:20 p.m. Saturday near where he drowned, police said.

“Cornell was always his dream from the very first day I met him,” Danielle Leach, Perez-Ventura’s high school homeroom teacher and college counselor, told the Daily News. “He handed me a little piece of paper that said, ‘Cornell is my first choice and I want to study architecture.’”

In December, Perez-Ventura was featured on ABC News when a video of his acceptance went viral.  

“AP and the entire Cornell community are devastated by this loss. An announcement from the college will be posted later this morning — our hearts go out to his family and friends. A truly remarkable young man has been taken from us all far too soon,” Cornell University College of Architecture, Art and Planning wrote on their Facebook page.

Perez-Ventura was set to begin freshman orientation at Cornell in two weeks. All incoming students are required to pass a swim test and those who fail are required to take an additional class. Acting Ithaca Police Chief Pete Tyler noted the waterfalls are a popular attraction, yet they can be deadly if someone trespasses in an area where they are not supposed to be.

“The Ithaca gorges are so, so beautiful,” Tyler told the Daily News. “But they can be very dangerous.”

Perez-Ventura’s devastated parents returned to their Bronx home Sunday night. His mom carried a bouquet of flowers as tears poured from her eyes.

A GoFundMe page for Sammy’s funeral arrangements was started by his family. By Sunday evening, they had raised over $12,000.

Written by Rachel Herron

(Photo: Cornell AAP via Facebook)


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