Classmates remember teen as investigation into her death continues

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MINT HILL, N.C. - Students at Independence High School are wearing orange and yellow on Friday to honor 16-year-old Kayla Campbell, who was found dead on Thursday.

Students told Channel 9 Campbell’s favorite color was orange.

“They don't really prepare you for how to deal with something like this,” said Katie Willett, one of Campbell’s teachers. “She was a vibrant young woman. She was just a joy to be around.”

She described the 16-year-old junior as funny with a passion for writing.

For three days this week, Willett, like everyone else at Independence, held out hope that Campbell would be found alive after disappearing Sunday.

Investigators found Campbell’s body early Thursday morning after draining a pond in Mint Hill.

Willett is trying to help students come to terms with Campbell’s death while trying to make sense of it herself.

“The very first thing that we had to do -- I just told the students that I wasn't OK and I’m not OK,” she said. “And then we go from there and we start just doing things in honor of her, in memory of her -- to honor the person and memory of who she was.”

Campbell’s classmates gathered Thursday night by the pond, near where the teen’s body was found, and lit candles and left flowers.

"What happened here wasn't something that was a good thing and we want to make it something good, something to remember her by," said Jimmy Tabolski, a classmate.

Tabolski brought a candle; his sister left one of Kayla's poems. They said they will remember the gift she had with words.

"She really portrayed her emotion through her writing. It was like nothing I had ever read before," said Tabolski.

"It's hard for everybody," said Jesse Courat, a friend from church. 

Students have also set up a memorial for Campbell outside Independence High School, painting a rock to say “RIP Kayla” and leaving flowers.

The school’s principal said she met with Campbell's parents Thursday afternoon, and they decided to have a candlelight vigil Friday on the track at 5 p.m.

Police said the investigation into the circumstances surrounding Campbell's death is still ongoing.