WHEN INSPIRATION STRIKES: The world has lost Ariyana Jones’s brilliant heart of gold; now our compassion must shine

(Photo used by permission of Joy Pangilinan)
ASE counselor Ariyana Jones, second from left, embraces fellow counselors Steven Dimal, Tirzah Kubach and Morgan Bennett-Smith at summer camp in 2011.

Sophomore Gabi Alvarado, who enjoys writing, will blog biweekly on the origins of her creativity and artistic vision.

Ariyana Jones, pre-K teacher and former ASE (After School Enrichment) counselor, was killed Thursday night. She deserves better than secrecy, but I suppose I will leave it at that.

My memories of Ariyana consist of her really big smile, signing me into ASE in lower school when I really didn’t want to be there. As a faculty student, I was used to the privilege of going to my mom’s classroom before class was over. I would try not to smile as I walked into the room, bringing the attention of the high-school students. I didn’t want to go to ASE, so, whenever I did, I would complain to my parents.

The counselors knew that I hated going and would probably internally groan whenever I showed up. Every time, I would sit, by myself, at one of the impressively uncomfortable green tables and do my homework, then read a book.

But Ariyana would always talk to me about what book I was reading, how my day was, what my plans for the evening or the weekend were. Sometimes she would give me Saltines or graham crackers if I was really hungry. She would always stick to the rules, and I got really frustrated every time she sent someone to walk with me up to the high school.

Now I’ve been a counselor at a summer camp, and I know how it feels to have responsibility over kids. It’s stressful and it’s nerve-wracking, and sometimes it makes one want to scream at a little kid. Looking back, it was incredible that she always seemed to be happy to be there with us.

Friday morning I heard the news through a faculty member first period. I had free, and I was in math teacher Patricia Jacobsen’s classroom when Gabriella Foster came in with Nick Domich. He seems to always be her substitute teacher, so I asked if she was sick. Gabriella replied, no, one of the pre-K teachers had passed away. I didn’t yet know who, but an overwhelming sense of dread and sorrow came over me as I went to my second-period class.

At break, we found out it was Ariyana, so young and happy, and we were all shocked and devastated.

In our sophomore English class, Fels has been teaching us about the Cain and Abel story. At the beginning, God prefers Abel’s sacrifice to Cain’s, and Cain, upset, asks God why. Cain asks why must this happen to him, who has done nothing wrong.

And God gives no answer to this timeless question: Why do bad things happen to good people?

As we talked about this Bible story in class, Fels said that everyone has asked this question and we will again, and that no matter what you believe it is very difficult to answer.

When I heard what had happened to Ariyana, I tried not to ask this question. I am stubborn, and I try to defy what people say I should or will do. Instead I tried to accept what had happened as something that just happens, that that is how the world works.

And then I asked myself, But here? Now? In the United States in 2016? How does this still happen? And I found another question I couldn’t answer.

I feel things very deeply. Tragedies hit home and I hurt –  and I cry. And then I write.

This poem is in memory of Ariyana Jones, whose light is missed and will be missed especially in the years to come. Now we must all be miners for our hearts of gold, as the world has lost a precious one.


The Field


There has been a storm.


A man takes his son out to their field.

He and all his forefathers before him

Have tended to this land,

Bringing life to this otherwise flat and barren earth.


Their corn is all gone.

It has been destroyed in the rain.


A week ago, the man came outside with his son

And raced with him through the stalks,

Through the growing stalks

That would bring food and money and life to his family,

To his neighbors,

To the town.


Now he kneels,

Among the broken-off stalks.

All that used to be green

Is grey and moldy at his feet.


His son’s brow furrows as he asks:

Why, Father?

Why did the storm destroy our crops?


Because storms are destructive.

The wind and rain cause the plants to fall down.


But, why are they so destructive?


That is the nature of storms, my son.

When winds are strong and it rains very hard,

A storm has hit.


Why did a storm hit?


The man does not know how to answer.

He asks himself these questions often.


Why did a storm hit here?

Why did a storm hit us?


The man, with tears running down his face,

Looks up at his son’s face,

Untouched by the hardship of time.


I ask myself the same question, my son.

I have no answer for you.

I do not know.

By Gabi Alvarado

Print Friendly, PDF & Email