By Linda Marrs-Morford, Director
Indiana Principal Leadership Institute
Bad things do happen in the world, like war, natural disasters, disease. But out of those situations always arise stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. — Daryn Kagan
With the recent devastation from Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Hurricane Irma in Florida, and the fires in the western United States, many of us educators here in the Midwest are wondering, “What can I do to help?” This is one of those “teachable moments” for our students. How about organizing a school-wide fundraising event to generate funds to help recovery efforts? Experts say cash donations are the best way to give, and bake sales, collections at school events, gate proceeds from sporting events, etc. are quick ways to raise money for donating (see sidebar for a list of giving opportunities).
Schools can also utilize resources such as generationOn (https://www.generationon.org/page/resources-educators) and Learning to Give (http://www.learningtogive.org/) to organize service-learning projects to support the relief efforts. Indiana genOn is offering $250 mini grants to Indiana educators, and Learning to Give has just announced $250-$1000 mini grants for service-learning projects. See the latest edition of IASP’s Schoolhouse News for information about both programs (http://www.iasp.org/shn/09.08.17.pdf).
The recovery effort in Texas, Florida, and the west will take months if not years. Schools may wish to adopt a school in one of the impacted areas to support for a year. Creating a pen-pal program with an affected school is not only a great way to enhance writing skills, but the connection with a peer may be the key to helping a traumatized student. Also look for opportunities for spring break or summer service-learning projects and internships for your students through Habitat for Humanity, the U.S. National Park Service, and other similar organizations.
Although you may be hundreds of miles from the devastations, you may have students and/or staff with family and/or friends impacted. Keep an eye on these individuals; they may be experiencing trauma. Utilize your Student Services Team to educate faculty, staff, and parents about how to respond to individuals experiencing stress. The National Association of School Psychologists (https://www.nasponline.org/) has a number of resources to help you develop your plan of support.
Many families and individuals have been displaced by the fires and hurricanes. If you can provide shelter, go to https://www.airbnb.com/welcome/evacuees.