By Erica Thomas, managing editor
CLAY — A former high school teacher of Destiny Washington offered condolences to the family Friday after hearing of the shooting death of the 20-year-old nursing student.
Melanie Gaines taught Washington at Clay-Chalkville High School. She had her for AP English when she was in 11th grade and had her in the National Honors Society in 11th and 12th grade. When Gaines opened Facebook Friday morning and saw the story of her passing, she said she couldn’t believe what she was reading.
“It’s such a tragedy for her family,” Gaines said. “As a teacher, your students are always your kids, no matter how many years pass. It’s always hard.”
Gaines has been an educator for 19 years. She is now the Assistant Principal at McAdory High School. Many students come and go, but Gaines said Washington was one of those that stuck with her. In fact, she said she ran into Washington about a year and a half ago when she was at the grocery store.
“Destiny was one of those students that always tried to help out,” Gaines said. “She is one of those that always stayed with you.”
Looking back, Gaines said she always knew there was something special about Washington.
“It was her resolve to be successful,” Gaines explained. “She knew what she wanted to do and worked hard to be able to go to college and go into this nursing program. She never wavered on what she wanted.”
Washington would have become a Registered Nurse in May 2021, according to her family. But on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, she went to meet someone at Hill Student Center at UAB and was gunned down inside her vehicle. UAB said investigators believe she was meeting someone to sell a set of headphones.
“To hear something just so senseless could happen,” Gaines continued. “It was just taking the life of somebody that had so much to offer.”
Gaines said she hopes people are able to remember the “sweet girl and hard worker.”
“I think anytime somebody that you are close to or knew is killed in such a way, it’s not something that’s easy to deal with, but remembering the good times they had and focusing on the things that were good about her and the successes that she had is important,” Gaines added. “Just remember the light that she had.”