Letters to Kayla


Kleya Dhenin, Reporter

As a community, Ashland is many things. Some may call its residents aware, politically correct, politically incorrect, radical, etc., but as a school Ashland High School maintains an astute level of consciousness to global issues. Since elementary school, the Ashland School District has raised its students to be mindful of change, be knowledgeable of political movements and celebrate strides forward. In the recent state of the world, Ashland has maintained this awareness and is continuing to take the steps to make students involved in global issues.


Kathi Bowen-Jones, an English teacher at AHS is taking the lead on educating her students about worldly issues and providing an opportunity to get involved. Her classes are writing letters in response to Kayla Mueller, an American aid worker from Prescott, Arizona, and an ISIS hostage killed by a Jordanian airstrike. As towns go, Ashland and Prescott are very similar, this is one of the reasons Bowen-Jones felt such a connection and desire to take action. “This is an exercise and call of response.” says Bowen-Jones.


She found inspiration for this project in her 9th grade humanities block,when they were studying genocide and random acts of terrorism, and with prior students who are active in volunteer work, as well as parallels to literature. Bowen-Jones believes that “It was more than just a letter to her family, it ended up being a letter to the world.”


Many of her classes drew connections to Kayla as well as felt a deep sense of admiration. Dylan Kistler, freshman, demonstrates this admiration in his letter to Kayla, “You maintained an extraordinary perspective concerning those you love, and an irrefutable trust in God to the final breath, perhaps beyond. The honest incarnation of bravery within your letter is one we should all aspire to someday call our own.” Other students came to a realization of the wealth of the lives they lead, “I start this letter aware of how lucky I am. I see my family often. I live in a relatively safe area. I have many things to be grateful for.” (Maisie Roberson)


Sarah Bestor came to a realization of a different sort, of the world we live in. “There used to be a time when it would surprise me if there was a news article about a shooting, and that article would be on the cover of every newspaper and website I could find. But yesterday, when I read an article about a shooting in Copenhagen, I wasn’t even phased… I read the title and did not click on the article, I already knew what it would say. I knew what it would say because I read the article from Newtown, I read the old articles about Columbine, the stories from the camp in Norway and the personal accounts of the consequence of wanting to see Batman at midnight in Aurora, Colorado.” She goes on to state that she has become immune to the empathy she used to feel because she forced herself to stop feeling each tragedy.


Students who participated in this activity were enlightened and made realizations about themselves and their world they would not have otherwise. Sarah Bestor says, “In the beginning I did it because it was extra credit, but once I started writing a became very passionate and the importance of it grew exponentially.”