Moved by the devastation wrought by a recent hurricane, Upper Arlington's Barrington Elementary School has raised more than $13,000 to help reopen a Houston-area school.
Barrington teachers said they expect the tally to rise as they finalize their count from a series of fundraising activities that culminated Oct. 11 with a Helping Hands for Harvey Walk-a-Thon at Jones Middle School.
The money will go to help Juan Seguin Elementary School in Richmond, Texas. It is closed for the foreseeable future after it was severely damaged last month by flooding from Hurricane Harvey.
In the meantime, Fort Bend Independent School District officials announced last month that Juan Seguin's K-2 students and staff would resume classes at a nearby elementary school; those in grades 3-5 would be moved to a different neighboring middle school.
"Our goal was to teach students about the importance of kindness," said Molly Hinkle, a third-grade teacher at Barrington. "We did not set a financial goal for this. It was more about participation and reaching out to others in need.
"We hope to form a lasting connection with the staff and students at Seguin Elementary that will go beyond this fundraising effort."
Hinkle and Barrington first-grade teacher Lauren Kowalski said the team anticipated a schoolwide focus this year on issues of homelessness, but a staff member's connection to Juan Seguin sparked a variation of plans.
"One of our building staff members, Mary Weasel, has a relative who is connected to this school in Houston," Hinkle said. "She provided information to the service-learning team about the school, which has approximately the same number of students as Barrington and was severely impacted by the flooding.
"Hurricane Harvey took its toll, making so many people homeless due to flooding. We wanted to do something to help."
In addition to learning about the storm and how it affected people throughout the Houston area, students set out to raise money through a multitude of activities, ranging from operating their own lemonade stands and bake sales to earning pay for household chores.
Additionally, they asked family members and friends for "flat donations" for their 25-minute walk-a-thon at Jones Oct. 11.
In keeping with service-learning lessons about empathy and kindness, Barrington students also sent letters, poems and drawings to their peers at Juan Seguin "to let them know that we are thinking of them, that we admire their courage and to let them know that they are not alone," Hinkle said.
One such letter told Juan Seguin students, "You should know you are much braver than most kids your age."
Another encouraged the Texas students to "stay strong," and said, "You have been going through a lot. People are thinking about you. You are not alone."
Kowalski said the project has helped drive home lessons the Barrington staff strives to instill in students. She marveled at its successes.
"It's been a privilege to see how invested our students are in this project and the tremendous empathy they have for what the children affected by Hurricane Harvey have been through," Kowalski said. "Our students tried to imagine what it would be like to be displaced from their homes and school and wanted to share their message of kindness and hope for better days ahead for Juan Seguin Elementary School's community.
"We can only hope that the kindness chain started at Barrington will continue to grow."