On January 14, 2020, Mile High Academy student Mya Peña lost her life in a murder-suicide, the victim of domestic violence. On the one-year anniversary of this heartbreaking loss, the Denver community, Peña family, friends, and Mile High Academy students and staff gathered to honor Mya’s legacy, remembering not only a kind-hearted individual, but also creating awareness about domestic violence and mental health.
They gathered on January 14 in downtown Denver where local artist Austin Zucchini-Fowler painted a mural in remembrance of Mya at the corner of 21st and Lawrence streets. This location holds significance as it is near the area where Mya frequently served food to the homeless.
Attending the gathering, Andy Nash, Littleton church lead pastor, reflected on the event, “It was very meaningful to see so many students and families come together for Mya and her family. As parents ourselves, we especially want Audra to know that her beautiful daughter will remain in our hearts until the day Mya herself is with us again.”
To commemorate the anniversary, Mya’s mother Audra Peña teamed up with local businesses, churches, Mile High Academy, friends and family, collecting donations to distribute to the homeless community. Food, water, coats, gloves, hats and blankets were brought to the downtown mural where volunteers distributed them to those in need.
While time, memories and friendships have helped with the loss, there will always be a hole in the school community.
“The loss of a friend is like no other loss. There’s no way of just ‘getting over it,’ but it’s possible to get through it with the support from others. Having created so many memories helps make everyday a little easier,” Emily Raymond, classmate and Mya’s best friend, said.
MHA planned to mark the anniversary by hosting a day of events in her honor. Unfortunately, due to an ongoing quarantine, upper school students weren’t able to be on campus; however, they shared stories about Mya and prayed together for Mya’s family during an online time of reflection.
Mya’s best friend Emily reflected on the day’s events, “Her [Mya’s] memorials give us a chance to remember her life, not her death. I’m thankful so many people cared about Mya. Seeing how many people loved and cared for her has helped me grieve, encourages me to give back to her and try to live a meaningful life for her.”
Audra Peña, Mya’s mother, was grateful to MHA for all the love and support shown to her family over the past year. In an email to MHA she said, “Thank you again for everything! You all are such a precious blessing to my family and I. Mya would be so honored. We cannot express our appreciation enough!”
She has created the foundation Mya’s World whose mission is to provide a place for young people struggling to come to terms with domestic violence and mental health, or struggling in a relationship or needing a place to call for help.
To follow the foundation as it continues Mya’s legacy of helping others, please visit https://www.facebook.com/MyaWorld-102439001318533.
This article was written by Karrie Myers, Mile High Academy’s communication assistant, and was originally published by Rocky Mountain Conference NewsNuggets. It is reprinted here with permission.
Photos courtesy of RMC website.
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