Neng Thao Drowning Prevention Bill honors the life of former Edison High student

On Oct. 7, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1445, the Neng Thao Drowning Prevention Bill, which will provide informational materials and resources for affordable swim lessons at public schools statewide.

The Neng Thao Drowning Prevention Bill was authored by Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula and co-sponsored by Youth Leadership Institute (yli).

Neng Thao was an Edison High School senior who drowned in 2017 in the San Joaquin River while celebrating his older brother’s college graduation. 

Neng died just two weeks before his own graduation ceremony where he would have graduated as valedictorian and on the road to UC Berkeley. 

Six years later, family, school leaders, and Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula gathered for a press conference at Edison High School on Oct. 13 to celebrate the signing of AB 1445. 

“We are blessed by your presence here,” Superintendent Bob Nelson welcomed the crowd. “Not everybody takes a hard situation and turns it into something that really changes the world in a positive way, so I just give my love and gratitude and appreciation to you.”

The bill was created as a water safety act which will work to foster drowning prevention awareness. Additionally the bill will help connect families with water safety and swimming skill classes at a reduced cost. 

Arambula is an Edison High alumni and he bonded with Neng through their connection to the campus. 

“This campus effectively allowed us to feel that connection,” Arambula said. “But it also instilled in us a need to give back to the community that was opening up doors for us. I saw that and was inspired by that.”

“Neng advocated for change at the city council level, as well as at our state capitol,” Arambula continued. “I believe that it’s important for us to memorialize and to make sure that we acknowledge his contributions to our community.”

Neng was actively involved in his community. He strived to make the world a better place and this bill promotes some of his core beliefs.

One of his older brothers, Touyee Thao, said AB 1445 is a great way to honor and commemorate his brother because fighting for the rights of minority communities was something he always wanted to do.

“Right now, our family is very happy that the bill was signed by Gov. Newsom,” Thao said. “Especially because we know for sure that this bill is something that would have been a very important part of what my brother would have been fighting for if he was still here with us today.”

Neng had big dreams and aspirations; he believed everyone deserves equality and he especially had an interest in uplifting the community. 

“His inspiration was to make sure that we were taking this tragedy and turning it into a positive to make sure that we were able to take and go into the future and to train more people so that we can save lives here in California,” Arambula said.

Neng’s family is grateful for the bill and to Arambula for creating something that will honor their son in such an important way.

“We hope that this bill will help save the lives of our young people who still have such a long way to go and a promising future ahead of them,” Thao said. “We also hope that this bill will help prevent other families from experiencing the same tragic loss and hardship our family endured.”

Jazmin Alvarado (she/her)

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