I’m sure many of you know by now about the untimely passing of Aryana Santana. While some publications would surely like to use this tragedy for less than noble purposes, I would like to take this time to honor her life. Specifically, the positive impact she had on the students and staff of Palmetto High School. Anything less would be a disservice to her memory and to our responsibilities as the school’s news team.
Aryana warmed the environment up wherever she was. Be it JROTC, the newspaper club, or even her regular classes, it was clear that people enjoyed her presence. For myself, she was always a more than welcome break from the monotony of each school day. Even when passively listening, I couldn’t help but smile at whatever topic of discussion she had picked for the day.
In order to fully illustrate both who she was, and what she meant to those at Palmetto, I would like to share some stories people have of their time with Aryana. I’ll begin with myself.
I remember one year ago, I shared a JROTC class with her. One day, I came into class to find that Aryana had brought some tamales for everyone. They were amazing. While it wasn’t uncommon for her to bring food for people, this instance was notable because of just how much time tamales take to make. She really did care for people.
A good friend of Aryana’s, Evelyn Aguilar, has said that “her best qualities were that she made sure everybody [else] was good before she was,” and that, “she always made everyone around her laugh.” Evelyn also recalled one of her favorite moments with Aryana, talking about a time the two had gone out to eat, and needed to finish paying with change due to being short on bills. She especially remembered that they ended up taking a drink home in a to-go box, instead of a cup. While it might not seem very profound at first glance, times like that show just how fun Aryana was to be around, turning small events into times to remember.
Aryana was also loved by her teachers. Ms.Enneking, a language arts teacher at Palmetto, first taught Aryana in the 7th grade, and both made the trip to Palmetto High School. The teacher recalled how good Aryana was at knowing what people needed, be it “a shoulder to cry one or for someone to make them laugh”. She continued on, saying that Aryana “put others’ needs and feelings before her own.”
Ms.Enneking also mentioned how she learned to be a better teacher through Aryana. When Aryana first entered her class in the seventh grade, Ms.Enneking didn’t know how to pronounce it. Instead of letting the mistake continue, Aryana spoke up, making sure the teacher knew how to say her name. Reflecting back on the experience, Ms.Enneking mentioned that she always checks to make sure she can say people’s names correctly. About Aryana specifically, she beamed about how Aryana had “confidence and the ability to speak up for herself.”
As I bring this to a close, I would like to leave the reader with some quotes about Aryana, highlighting everything she has done for Palmetto High School.
“One word about Aryana: genuine. Genuinely joyful, pleasant, and loving. Genuinely Aryana”- Ms.Enneking
“Aryana was such a beautiful and genuine person to anyone she came across.”- Evelyn Aguilar