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Autistic Whitney Young senior who was killed ‘always had a smile on his face’

Brandon Porter-Young. | Whitney M. Young Magnet High School

Faculty and students at Whitney Young High School on Monday were mourning the loss of a popular special needs student who was stabbed to death at his temporary apartment in the East Garfield Park neighborhood on the West Side.

Brandon Porter-Young was a handsome, quiet 18-year-old senior who loved playing basketball and gardening, according to a peer and members of the Whitney Young staff.

Principal Joyce Dorsey Kenner recalled that the autistic student “always had a smile on his face.”

Kenner said Porter-Young, who had a severe learning disability and a “profound issue with intellectual capacity,” was home alone at the time of his death Friday night. She feared that he answered the door for someone who then violently took his life.

Porter-Young’s autism limited his verbal skills, and he had a hard time communicating with people he didn’t know, according to Corryne Irvin, a special education teacher at Whitney Young.

Since early December, Porter-Young had been living with his mother at the Jr Plaza Hotel II, 3001 W. Jackson Blvd., said Annie Harris, a hotel employee.

Around 10 p.m. Friday, Porter-Young was found at the hotel with multiple stab wounds to his upper body, according to police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office. He was pronounced dead at the scene. No one has been arrested.

Police respond to Friday’s fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Brandon Porter-Young in the 3000 block of West Jackson. Justin Jackson/Sun-Times

Despite his disabilities, Porter-Young played on the Special Olympics basketball team and enjoyed gardening and music, a Whitney Young student and members of the faculty said.

Porter-Young was also involved in Whitney Young’s popular Best Buddies program, which pairs special education students with other students from the school.

“He was a really sweet person,” Porter-Young’s Best Buddy partner Rowan Broderick said. Broderick, a freshman, said that she and Porter-Young often chatted in the school’s cafeteria.

Rebecca Folkerts, the adviser for the Best Buddies program and Porter-Young’s former teacher, remembered him as a responsible student with a “great sense of humor.” Folkerts said the “extremely bright” Brandon was primed to get a job after graduating at the end of the school year.

A memorial service is scheduled on Feb. 20 at Whitney Young. The school’s art department is preparing a special project with flowers for the event to honor Porter-Young’s love for gardening.

FOLLOW-UP REPORT: Classmates of murdered Whitney Young student raise money, create art in his memory