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‘He was a good kid all around’; mentor remembers 13-year-old killed in Winston-Salem crash

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A child’s mentor is questioning whether he did enough. 

Reuben Pledger, 13, was killed in a crash last Tuesday in Winston-Salem. Pledger was a passenger in a car being chased by Forsyth County deputies on Patterson Ave. 

“At first I felt like it was my fault, like I’ve been in a place, like I didn’t do this or I could have said this or I could have done that,” said Frankie Gist, a community activist. 

The sheriff’s office says the car was driving erratically and without a license plate when a deputy tried to make a traffic stop. Deputies reported the driver sped off, lost control of the car and hit a utility pole. 

Pledger died at the scene. 

“Reuben had a great heart. He was smart, he was funny, he was vibrant, he was a good kid all around. The only thing that messed him up was people,” said Gist. 

Gist, a former step teacher at Quality Education Academy, met the teen a few years back. 

“He caught on fast to the steps, he was engaged, he was just an awesome young fella and to get to know him throughout that year, that he was on my step team, was everything,” said Gist. 

Gist says their first meeting was a memorable one. Pledger was asked to leave tryouts after he said something under his breath when he was asked to stop talking. 

The next day his grandma showed up. 

“She said, ‘Please, don’t give up on Reuben. He’s been through a lot as a child. Don’t give up on him. Please, bear with him, and if he don’t do right, tell me. I get him and I set him straight.’ Her dying wish was for him to be great and for him to be successful. I wanted to help her make sure that happened,” said Gist. 

It’s a wish that Gist and others hoped they would be able to see through. 

“Don’t think that he was a troubled child, don’t think that he was this thug, don’t think that. Let’s all remember when we were once young and we did some things we shouldn’t do. Some of us were on a path worse than Reuben’s, and you made it through, so that’s the reason we don’t know about your past, but what if it was you then,” said Gist. 

To the driver and two other passengers who survived the crash, Gist hopes they take his message seriously: God gave you another chance, now do something with it. 

“Let his birth greatness out of you and let his death birth positivity out of you, and go into the communities and build your community young people,” said Gist. 

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