Dakota Wesleyan student Keesha Letcher joins Emily’s Hope in fight against overdose deaths

MITCHELL — When Dakota Wesleyan University junior Keesha Letcher decided to switch her major from education to criminal justice, one of her professors asked her a question. Do you want to dip your toes in or do you want to be thrown in the deep end?

“I told him to throw me in the deep end,” Letcher told the Mitchell Republic in a recent interview. “So he did.”

In addition to her classes at Dakota Wesleyan, she is also diving head first into an internship with Emily’s Hope, the organization founded by former journalist Angela Kennecke in memory of her daughter, who died of fentanyl poisoning in 2018. The non-profit organization focuses on removing the stigma of substance use disorder as well as providing education and treatment resources to the public.

As an intern for Emily’s Hope, Letcher does pretty much whatever is asked. She maintains portions of the organization’s website, writing memorial pages for overdose victims and conferring with family members of victims to create bios and obtain permission to use photos. She writes thank you notes to donors and shares information on social media. The benefit poker run she helps coordinate brought in $28,000 for the organization earlier this year.

It’s work that has put her skills to good use and has put her in contact with families around the country. Mindful of being sensitive, she takes care to approach her work with a caring mindset, and while making phone calls and crafting emails to victims’ families can be an intimidating task, she has found people grateful for her efforts.

Keesha Letcher sits with a container of fentanyl testing strips on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Mitchell. Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic