2017-09-29 / Front Page

Hurricane relief team formed

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer


Students at Scarborough Middle School are collecting T-shirts, backpacks and socks for students at Hambrick Middle School who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey, which reeked havoc on the Houston area last month. Johnny Morse, a 1995 Scarborough High School graduate, serves as an assistant principal at the school and reached out to his hometown for aid. (Michael Kelley photo) Students at Scarborough Middle School are collecting T-shirts, backpacks and socks for students at Hambrick Middle School who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey, which reeked havoc on the Houston area last month. Johnny Morse, a 1995 Scarborough High School graduate, serves as an assistant principal at the school and reached out to his hometown for aid. (Michael Kelley photo) Though separated by more than 2,600 miles, students in the Scarborough school district are creating a one-of-a-kind relationship with their peers at Hambrick Middle School in Houston, Texas as students and staff at that school rebound from the damages caused by Hurricane Harvey.

“Scarborough alum Johnny Morse reached out to (high school principal) David Creech and I and wanted to know if our schools would like to partner with his school. He is the assistant principal at Hambrick Middle School in Houston,” said Middle School Principal Diane Nadeau. “The school was completely intact, but they had so many families affected by the hurricane. He reached out to us about the basics that the kids are going to need.”

Since Sept. 11, students have been collecting new T-shirts, socks, new or used backpacks and monetary donations for the 1,100 seventh and eighth-graders who attend the school.

Collection boxes have been placed in each learning community and at the front door, where the public can drop off items between now and Tuesday, Oct. 3.

Morse, a 1995 graduate of Scarborough High School, said aside from some minor issues, the hurricane didn’t create much of impact on the school building. Like other schools in the city, Hambrick Middle School shut down Aug. 25, but not before staff attempted to prepare the building for the impeding hurricane. The school reopened for classes again Thursday, Sept. 7.

“We were lucky the flooding didn’t impact our school. We had flooding in other parts and our students and staff were impacted. As I watched how much impact Harvey had on the area, I expected the worst, but hoped for the best,” said Morse, who has been an assistant principal at Hambrick Middle School for three years.

Morse said 250 students were impacted by the hurricane to the point where they were displaced or lost everything in the flooding. There are still some students, he said, who have not returned to the school and the staff is trying to understand where they are now and whether they are attending school elsewhere.

Schools in Kentucky and New York reached out to Hambrick officials about collecting supplies for students, so Morse and his colleagues began to think of other items students might need to “help them rebound and back into a routine.”

“Don’t get me wrong all the school supplies in the world would be put to use here. Based on what we potentially had coming in from other schools, that’s what made us ask for those specific items,” he said.

Nadeau said after hearing from Morse she brought up the request to staff, who in turn mentioned it to students during their advisory period.

“It was a topic included for each of them,” Nadeau said of the advisory groups, also called crews. “The way they wanted to engage with that came individually. It was not an expectation, per say.”

Some students, she said, have started a letter writing campaign with their counterparts in Texas to brighten their spirits.

“It gives our students an opportunity to recognize there are people that have great struggles. Sometimes having that morale support has value. It doesn’t have to always come in the form of monetary donations or things,” she said.

Nadeau said the donation drive and letter-writing campaign serves as a “great way for our students to connect in a concrete way with other students that they shared common experiences with.”

Morse said the correspondence also serves as an eye opener for his students.

“One of the things we really struggle with having our students understand is there is a lot more outside their block, neighborhood and the city of Houston and other people are concerned and people they don’t know are willing to reach our and help,” Morse said.

There may be an opportunity in the future, he said, when the roles are reversed and the Houston students can aid those who have helped them.

“I can’t wait to see some of the letters we get and see what some of our students write back,” Morse said.

Since launching Sept. 11, the middle school’s effort has gone well past the school’s walls. Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, for example, has offered to take care of shipping all the donated items on behalf of the school district. Cary Olson Cartwright, UNUM’s vice president of corporate social responsibility and a longtime friend of Nadeau’s, has organized an employee donation drive to benefit Hambrick Middle School families as well.

Tom Griffin, a physical education teacher at Scarborough Middle School, has offered to split half of the proceeds from his annual bike-a-thon between the Frannie Peabody Center – the annual beneficiary – and the middle school’s donation drive.

“I am astounded by the fact people have taken notice and it has grown past this grassroots effort we are doing as a school community,” she said.

While the middle school community is collecting items for their peers in Houston, high school students are also looking to help Hambrick Middle School. Creech said Greg Applestein, one of the high school’s assistant principals, is working with the school’s service groups to develop a plan for how students will aid the students at Hambrick.

“Our intention is to make this a student lead type of thing in which the advisors and leaders of these service groups decide how we can support that Houston middle school,” Creech said.

Applestein said what that aids looks like is still being developed.

“We are still in the early stages,” he said.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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