January 21, 2020

Adventist Academy and Community Join to Honor Killed Student

Karrie Meyers, with reports from North American Division News, and Adventist Review

Mile High Academy (MHA), local Denver, Colorado, churches, and the community have joined together as they honor the life of one of their students who passed away. Mya Pena was killed after she left school on Tuesday, January 14, 2020. A candlelight vigil was held on January 16 at the academy.

“We ask our community to lift up the parents of the student, the Mile High Academy students and staff, our pastors, and the counselors in prayer as we continue to grieve together,” said Lonnie Hetterle, Rocky Mountain Conference (RMC) education superintendent.

On January 15, the administration of Mile High Academy—a Seventh-day Adventist school—issued a statement. “It is with profound sadness that Mile High Academy confirms the loss of one of our students. Our hearts go out to this family. We want the family to know that they are in our thoughts and prayers,” read the statement in part.

MHA is working closely with the Douglas County Sheriff's Department as they continue to investigate the tragedy. In the released statement, Mile High Academy shared that it will have grief counselors and pastors on hand to help students, staff, and families with this loss.

“Prayers for our students and staff are appreciated. Thank you for respecting the privacy of our school community at this time,” the statement continued.

Ed Barnett, RMC president, visited the Seventh-day Adventist school on Wednesday and Thursday. “Our hearts hurt for the parents and family of our student who is no longer with us,” Barnett said. “The way the Mile High Academy students, staff, and local churches have come together speaks volumes to just how closely connected this community is, especially in times of sadness. We also want to say thank you to the counselors and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department for their assistance during this time. Please continue to pray for all involved.”

Funeral services were held on Monday, January 20, 2020, at LifeSource Adventist Fellowship in Denver.

In a post on the church’s website, local pastor Andy Nash wrote, “Thank you for your prayers and support for Mya's family and friends. This has been a very difficult time for our community, and everyone feels the pain of this event in different ways. Parents can’t imagine the grief borne by the Pena family; classmates and teachers must cope with Mya’s sudden absence.  As humans, we aren't designed to handle a loss like this.

“Mya had a beautiful heart and a radiant smile, and she was known for standing up for others. In the same way, we can honor Mya by loving one another — and standing up for others — until the day Christ takes ‘her by the hand and says to her, “Talitha koum!” — which means ‘Little girl, I say to you, get up!’”