Pedro Matala was swimming with friends when he went under the water and didn’t resurface. Credit: Courtesy of Narciso A. Massala / CBS 13

Portland is mourning the death of a high school student who drowned in the Presumpscot River on Sunday.

Pedro Matala was swimming with friends in Falmouth when he went under the water and didn’t resurface. Searchers found his body that night.

Matala’s mentors said he was smart, caring and made an impact on them while becoming a mentor for others.

“Pedro was really special,” English teacher Molly Callaghan said. “Really a special student. I mean we love all of our students, but we really loved Pedro.”

“You’re not going to believe it,” family and community engagement specialist Berthlley Despacho said. “The first question I asked him was, ‘Do you know how to play soccer?’ And he was like, ‘Yes, I am very good, Uncle.'”

Despacho, who Matala called “Uncle Sandro,” enrolled him at Deering High School when he first came to the United States in 2019 from Angola.

“He had a good try out and the coach, his soccer coach, contacted me because his English was very limiting,” Despacho said.

“I was his first English teacher here,” Callaghan said. “And at the end of one semester with me he moved to the next level of our English language learner program and at the end of his freshman year, he was finished.”

Most students take two years to complete the program, but after one, Matala added English to his list.

“He was multilingual,” Callaghan said. “His first language was Portuguese, but he also spoke French and Spanish and Lingala.”

He was quick to help others learn, too.

“Anytime we have a new student join the class, he would want to help that person,” Callaghan said.

“He helped me a lot and a lot,” friend Leonel Muaco said. “If I could have a way to pay for that, I would do it forever.”

Muaco met Matala on his first day of school. Matala quickly became his mentor and good friend.

“The thing I’m going to miss most of his is his contagious smile, his charisma, his happiness, the way he had a lot of dreams,” Muaco said.

One of his dreams was to be rich, whether that was by being a soccer player or businessman.

“He was thinking more like, ‘Oh, I got to be rich to help others. I have to be rich to support people around me,’” Despacho said.

“That’s the legacy I want to take,” Muaco said. “Just for him.”