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'Sunshine Every Day'

Remembering the short life of Key'Mann Stringer

When professor Rae Robison first met Key'Maan Stringer during the orientation for incoming students in Humboldt State University's Department of Theatre, Film and Dance in August, the 19-year-old freshman immediately stood out. "He came over and said, 'I just want to thank you. I'm so excited,' and he hugged me and I'm not a hugger," Robison recalled. "Then, every single time I saw him on campus, he would yell, 'Rae,' and he would give me a hug." He was simply "a very sweet boy," she said, who made his way to college despite facing overwhelming obstacles, arriving in Humboldt County from Los Angeles to begin classes just 12 weeks ago. "I have just never met anyone who was so joyful, every time you met him, in my life. Ever," Robison said. "It just breaks my heart." The aspiring actor known for his bright smile and a bubbly personality that could light up a room is presumed to have drowned after being swept off the North Jetty on Oct. 29 while trying to free a fishing line that had become entangled in the rocks. Now those left behind are grappling with the sudden loss of a young man who held so much promise — a first-generation college student who had endured homelessness and the foster care system, yet remained eternally optimistic and determined to chart a new course for his life. Corliss Bennett, director of the university's Cultural Centers for Academic Excellence, was at the airport to pick up Stringer when he first arrived in town after one of her sorority sisters, who works as a transitional social worker in Los Angeles, let her know he was coming to attend Humboldt State. Bennett remembers how Stringer looked at the bucolic fields as they drove down U.S. Highway 101 and exclaimed in amazement, "Wow, a cow," and how she laughed and replied back, "Welcome to Humboldt." "We both just cracked up," Bennett said. Immediately she took on the role of mom, helping Stringer move into his residence hall and taking him shopping at Target with money donated by members of her sorority and other close friends. When he got his Humboldt State ID, she was there to record the moment as he beamed proudly for the camera, recalling how he turned to her, saying, "Look Ma, I'm a college student now." These 12 weeks he spent on campus were some of the…

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