Tyreic Hemphill died in a two car crash on Highway 55 near Riddle Road late Friday afternoon.
Students wore blue as they returned to class Monday after learning the tragic news over the weekend.
"The Jordan High School family and community are in disbelief of this very unfortunate accident...Tyreic was a bright young man who was academically ranked 42nd in his senior class," said Jordan High School's Principal Jerome Leathers.
"We're missing a big part right now. Anytime Jordan loses a child to me that's a big part," he added.
The loss of the 16-year-old brought grief counselors from other schools to Jordan High Monday.
"We want our kids to move forward but we want them to move forward without forgetting about Tyreic," said Leathers.
Hemphill is another young life tragically taken on Triangle roadways in recent months.
"We still have too many fatalities on roadways," said Arthur Goodwin with the UNC Highway Safety Research Center.
Goodwin said motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens. It has experts encouraging parents to take their time handing over the keys.
"Parents might feel teens aren't ready for driving. They might decide to wait six months to a year which can make a big difference in terms of maturity level for teens," said Goodwin.
Additional practice even after a teen gets their license is critical. Research shows driving to and from school just is not enough. A variety of road experiences helps teens sharpen their driving skills and possibly prevent another tragedy.
"It's the what could've been with any that leaves us too soon...the potential was there," said Leathers who described Hemphill as college bound and destined for great things.
His short life is now a life lesson for the heartbroken classmates he left behind.
"Tomorrow is not promised...so do your very best today," said Leathers.
Friends of the teen are now dealing with their grief. ABC11 spoke to some of Hemphill's friends who equally described him as a smart, fun, all-around good guy.
"It almost made me want to cry you know, because I was used to seeing him and the next thing you know he was just gone," said Hemphill's friend Kenneth Harley.
"I was sad yeah cause I mean he was. Yeah I was pretty sad," added Hemphill's friend Tyrese McMillan.
Hemphill was senior at Jordan Hill High School in Durham and was also a member of the "Movement of Youth" organization, an educational mentoring program for middle and high students, as well as an Emily K Center scholar.
Hemphill's lead counselor at the Emily K Center met the teen over two years ago, and says he was nothing short of a role model for everyone who knew him.
"Tyreic was the epitome of a dreamer. He was raised with manners, morals and goals," counselor Tiffany Robinson said. "His drive for being someone and making something of himself inspired not only his peers, but adults who knew him."
The founder of the "Movement of Youth" organization said Hemphill was an honor student thinking about a career in engineering.The teen had hopes to leave Durham and go to Howard University.
The group was supposed to meet Saturday but that was cancelled because so many kids were upset about the teen passing. The founder is hoping to do a vigil later this week.
Police are still piecing together exactly what happened. A preliminary investigation shows the teen lost control of his car when he crossed the median and went right into the path of another car.
The driver of the other vehicle involved in the crash is said to be okay. Speed and alcohol do not appear to be factors in the crash.