Working at a public charter school is challenging. Longer hours with less pay, higher demands with fewer resources. Subpar science labs for experiments or too small of a playground for the little ones. Students who face seemingly overwhelming challenges that many of us adults will never understand. These things we all know to be true, but day-in and day-out we soldier on with a singular focus of doing best by children. We are rewarded with the knowledge that we are helping to change a child’s life trajectory or providing a family with a choice they previously lacked. We are warmed with the deeply intense relationships that we make with our students, families, and colleagues. These human interactions are what carry us through the difficult and challenging times in the aftermath of tragedy and loss.
Hurricane Harvey upended the lives of millions of people living throughout the path of the storm, destroying homes and businesses, overwhelming social services, and crippling critical infrastructure. Even as the storm raged and before predictions of damages were fully assessed, charter schools from around the country, state associations, financial institutions, and the private sector like began reaching out to offer aid and assistance. With Texans facing incredible losses, our charter families and schools answered the call to action; opening food and supply banks, rescuing stranded strangers and pets, donating funds and material goods, providing emotional support and a shoulder to cry on in the aftermath. They did this and more.
Our impacted schools have looked beyond their own physical losses, addressing the basic needs of students and families such as providing toiletries and food to more complex matters such as trauma relief and counseling. Many charter school students, particularly in urban areas like Houston, are low-income children of color. These communities were particularly impacted by Hurricane Harvey, and with few resources, will continue to struggle in the months and years ahead. While the love and support of teachers and school staff alone cannot help these children overcome these challenges, they are a step in the right direction. A school represents not only an education, not only a loving place for children, but also a safe place allowing students to escape personal hardships and focus on learning. A place of hope where a community can gather together, seek solace, gain fortitude, and be bigger than just an individual or a family unit.
Despite their losses of an early childhood center and administrative building, Tekoa Academy in Beaumont partnered with the American Red Cross to provide hot meals twice a day at campuses in Port Arthur. At Odyssey Academy in Galveston, school staff, parents, and volunteers worked around the clock to tear out and hang new drywall, prep and paint, and salvage school supplies to ensure a smooth opening for students. Individuals like Simone Kern, from YES Prep in Houston, organized hundreds of teachers throughout the Houston area via Facebook to provide relief and assistance to families. Brandon McElveen, a counselor at KIPP Explore Academy, also in Houston, literally answered the call as stranded students and fellow teachers reached out. Using his raised truck and canoe, he helped rescue over 20 people from the floodwaters.
While these are just a few examples of how people have come together to support one another and rebuild a community, there is still much work to be done, both within and outside of the schoolhouse. Our students and families are in need of tools and equipment, building materials, and financial resources to help rebuild homes, abate mold, purchase vehicles, and secure stable housing. With the closure of the largest shelters, and FEMA backlogged with claims to review, it will likely be months and years before the area is fully recovered. Consider supporting relief efforts by donating to TCSA’s Harvey Recovery Fund by clicking here. 100 percent of funds will go directly to the charter schools impacted by Harvey.
Now more than ever our students, families, neighbors, schools, and communities need our support.