Every Dec. 2, known as Be a Banana Day, the Country Day community remembers the life of former pre-K teaching assistant Ariyana Jones with a vigil and lower school assembly. Jones worked with pre-K for two years and as an After-School Enrichment camp counselor for five years before she was murdered on Dec. 1, 2016.

Students are also invited to wear yellow that day in honor of Jones’ camp counseling nickname, “Banana.”

Kindergarten assistant Latonia Pitts, Jones’ friend, said Jones chose the name “Banana” for her Camp Cavalier nickname because bananas were one of the few fruits she liked.

“She and the other counselors decided that ‘Banana’ was fitting, and it stuck,” Pitts said.

On Be a Banana Day, lower school students focused on how they could be kinder in memory of former teaching assistant Ariyana Jones. (Photo courtesy of Emily Allshouse)

On the morning of Dec. 2, a lower school assembly offered students the opportunity “to share their memories or what they have learned about how to be kind, supportive and joyful,” according to head of lower school Christy Vail.

Lower school students were given banana stickers, and many of the faculty wore yellow ribbons or banana pins that Vail gave out at the beginning of this year. 

Vail is the main person who coordinates the day, brainstorming with teachers for ways to memorialize Jones.

In the lower school, students wrote messages of kindness, and one from each class was selected to be written on a river rock. These rocks will be set about the school “for others to discover and be inspired, to spread this message beyond the lower school,” Vail said.

These decorated river rocks will adorn the campus to inspire students with messages of kindness, according to head of lower school Christy Vail. (Photo courtesy of Emily Allshouse)

In the afternoon, there was a candlelight vigil in the pre-K yard. The vigil is a yearly tradition for those who knew Jones well to come together. 

Lower school music teacher Elena Bennett and accompanist Jay Johnson played music to start the vigil, and people gathered and lit candles that were provided. Those who knew Jones well came forward with memories and stories. The commemoration ended with the community singing “This Little Light of Mine.”

“The goal of all of it is to remember a beautiful person who meant so much to this community and to support those who loved her as they grieve,” Vail said. “We want to help her children know that she is never forgotten.”

Vail said the staff will continue to think of ways to continue Jones’ memory.

“We will always look for inspiration for how to remember and honor Ariyana,” Vail said.

—By Sicily Schroeder

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