Students’ hurricane relief efforts show the strength of youth

Over the past few weeks, many of us have sat horrified in front of our TVs or have been glued to our smartphones (even more than usual) watching and reading about the hurricanes that have struck, impacted and forever changed the lives of many people across our nation and in the islands off the coast of Florida.

On a very personal level, Hurricane Harvey was too close to home. My father and stepmom live in Houston, and each morning and each night as I spoke with them to be sure they were doing OK, I worried. With no formal evacuation notification, these two 87-year-old seniors made every attempt to comfort me when I called, telling me everything would work out. The night I called and Dad told me a little water had made its way into the house, no matter how minimal the amount, I realized how quickly life could change.

My folks survived Harvey with relatively minor impact compared to the rest of Houston. Fortunately, their home did not flood after that night. A few weeks later came Irma and then Maria, and once again, the scenes broadcast illuminated the possibility that one event can change your life forever. Last week, as we heard and watched recovery scenes from the earthquake in Mexico, I wondered if there was anything any of us could do to help the pain and suffering we are observing across the world right now.

At our last Board of Education meeting, I was asked to work with our schools to do a support project for some of the many victims of the latest disasters. Ideas were shared, from kits to help teachers in Houston and Florida return to their classrooms to donation of items we no longer use in the district. I asked staff to talk to schools and gather feedback from them on what projects they might want to participate in.

    “As I look through this list of activities, I can’t help but feel very proud and blessed to be at least a temporary resident in this community. We are fortunate to live in the company of these young people who are role modeling for all of us what service to others is all about.”

Not surprisingly, I found that schools and its students were already having fundraising drives, collecting donations and supporting activities and events that would help those who had survived these catastrophes. The kids had beaten us to it; they were well on their way to sending support to the disaster victims.
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We seem to hear so much about our youth today that is negative, yet our valley kids regularly engage in community-service projects for those in need right here and jump right in at times of crisis to help others a world away.

So when it came time to write this week's column, I thought it would be most appropriate to let you know some of what your kids and their schools are contributing and accomplishing to help others in such dire need. I'm sure I've missed a few great examples and encourage you to write to me, or submit a Town Talk item to this paper, and help us share the good work of our youth with the community.

• Berry Creek Middle School: Students organized, sponsored and ran bake sales at Back to School Night and after school. Student council raised funds through concession sales at volleyball games.

• Red Hill Elementary School: Red Hill had a "Hats for Hurricanes" day on Friday, Sept. 22, and raised more than $350 that was donated to the Red Cross.

• Eagle Valley Middle School: Students reached out to partner with a school in Houston to make it more personal and targeted.

• Eagle Valley Elementary School: Eagle Valley had Bring a Stuffed Animal Day in exchange for a donation and had boxes of new backpacks to donate.

• Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy: Students did a dress down Monday, Sept. 25. If students brought $5, then they did not have to dress up for Monday dress code and raised $670 for the Red Cross.

• Red Sandstone Elementary School: Each grade level organized its own event (penny wars, bake sales, jog-a-thon) to help, and the school has asked Vail Resorts to match the funds raised. All activities take place next week.

• Battle Mountain High School: Student sponsored and organized events included Popcorn Fundraiser, Clothing and Shoe Drive, Food Drive, Next Big Thing (Food Drive), Help our Furry Friends: Collection for the Pets Affected by Hurricanes, Dodgeball Tournament, Smoothie Bar, Throw Water Balloons at Your Favorite Teachers, Toys for Texas and Fishbowl Collection.

• Gypsum Creek Middle School: Gypsum Creek had three students organize a weeklong fundraiser last week with a different theme for each day, raising more than $600. They set a goal of raising an additional $1,111 dollars this week.

• June Creek Elementary School: Kindergarten and one G4 class at June Creek worked together to gather supplies for a particular elementary school in Houston.

• Edwards Elementary School: The school's parent community is working on a school fundraiser to support Edwards Elementary's two teachers from Puerto Rico and their families back home.

• Homestake Peak School: Homestake Peak is supporting its seven Puerto Rican staff members who have family and friends who have lost everything to Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

As I look through this list of activities, I can't help but feel very proud and blessed to be at least a temporary resident in this community. We are fortunate to live in the company of these young people who are role modeling for all of us what service to others is all about.

Maggie Lopez, Ph.D., is the interim superintendent of Eagle County Schools. She can be reached at