As a growing number of natural disasters have affected people across the country and around the world, students and educators have stepped up their efforts to help those in need. One recent example is Bolton High School in Alexandria, Louisiana, where students have raised money and collected supplies for people still suffering from the damage caused by Hurricane Ida in August. Some of their fellow Louisianans were still without power weeks after the storm.

Meanwhile, at Boynton Beach Community High School in Florida, the school community has come together to support victims of an earthquake that hit Haiti in August and a damaging hurricane that struck the island days later.

In this post, Ethan Elmer, a student at Bolton High School, and Brandi Girtman, a teacher and student government adviser at Boynton Beach Community High School, discuss their schools’ relief efforts.

We Knew We Had to Help

From left: Seniors Ethan Elmer, Laura Ajlani, and Tyris Hall hold supplies donated during Bolton High School’s drop-off day.

We saw what was going on down south with Hurricane Ida, and it reminded us of last year when Hurricane Laura hit us and all the damage we had. Obviously, it wasn’t as severe, but we knew what it was like not to be sure how safe your school is and not be sure about having enough water and everything. Bolton was out of commission for about a week after the hurricane. Then with the winter storms that rolled through Texas and Louisiana, we were out of school for two weeks. A lot of people didn’t have water or power at that point.

In the wake of Ida, we knew we had to help immediately so we started planning fundraisers. One idea we had, which we will probably do later in October, is “free dress day.” Students can pay $5, and they get to wear what they want instead of the usual khakis and school shirt that we must wear every day. All the money will go to hurricane relief.

We also have a teacher who has worked with the Louisiana Baptist Convention, which has a hurricane relief operation, and he suggested the idea of a drop-off day. So, in September we collected bottled water, gas cans, plastic tarps, masks, brooms, mops, cleaning supplies, baby food, and things like that. The church group was able to distribute everything we collected to people in New Orleans who were still there after the storm or were just coming back.

We also had a fundraiser during homecoming week that we called penny wars. Even before holding free dress day, we’ve collected almost $280. I’m extremely thankful that we’ve gotten what we have so far.

I think sometimes it takes being in the position of other people who need help to really relate to it and feel moved by it. I’m happy we were really able to come together so fast on this and help.

It’s Great to See Our School Come Together

Brandi Girtman poses with some of the supplies that students at Boynton Beach Community High School collected to support victims of the recent earthquake in Haiti.

Boynton Beach High School has always had a large Haitian population. Many of our students still have family in Haiti who have been affected by natural disasters. In fact, we have a student in our Student Government Association who was displaced from the most recent earthquake. She chairs our newly formed Haiti Relief Committee. When this latest earthquake struck, it was student government leaders who approached me about doing some kind of fundraising drive to help the victims.

They started by making a flyer, and they put it in the school newspaper, and we just put the word out around school. We started on September 6 and continued through the end of the month, and the result is that I have boxes and boxes in my room that are ready to be sent to Haiti. We’ve been collecting canned goods, clothing, shoes, and lots of other items.

This is the first time we’ve really done something like this. It is so amazing to see kids donate out of their own pockets. Some have brought extra things from home. Everyone on campus is bringing in items. We’ve also had donations from teachers. One teacher bought $100 worth of feminine hygiene products to donate.

One of our teachers is a member of a church that is sending donations down to Haiti, and we’re going to partner with them. They’ll come and pick up all the items we’ve collected and distribute it where it’s needed.

We don’t want to stop with this one project. We want to make Haiti our cause for the rest of the year and do more fundraising. We’re thinking of doing a talent showcase and donating all the money we raise from that.

It’s been great to see our school come together and help out their own community. The kids love to give back, and they feel good about themselves. They are always looking for ways to do more.

About the Author

Ethan Elmer is a senior and student body president at Bolton High School in Alexandria, LA. Follow him on Twitter (@e_elmer_04).

Brandi Girtman is head of the information technology department, a digital information technology instructor, and student government adviser at Boynton Beach (FL) Community High School. Follow her on Twitter (@GirtmanBrandi).

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