Lo­cal stu­dents as­sist Har­vey vic­tims

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - Staff Re­port

TCHS Brandywine stu­dents come to­gether to help stu­dents in Texas im­pacted by Hur­ri­cane Har­vey.

The au­di­to­rium at Tech­ni­cal Col­lege High School (TCHS) Brandywine Cam­pus was packed with hun­dreds of stu­dents. While many high school as­sem­blies com­pete with stu­dents talk­ing or pulling out their phones, this pre­sen­ta­tion was no­tice­ably dif­fer­ent. Ac­cord­ing to Health Ca­reer Path­ways in­struc­tor Les­lie For­est, “it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. No one was talk­ing, there were no phones out. We knew right away we had the un­di­vided at­ten­tion of 952 stu­dents.”

The pre­sen­ta­tion that had cap­tured their at­ten­tion cen­tered on the im­pact Hur­ri­cane Har­vey had on Hous­ton, Texas. Specif­i­cally, the pre­sen­ta­tion fo­cused on the ef­fect the hur­ri­cane had on the stu­dents of the Dr. Kirk Lewis Ca­reer & Tech­ni­cal High School (CTHS) in Hous­ton. While the school, which is a ca­reer & tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion cen­ter like TCHS Brandywine, was not se­verely af­fected by the hur­ri­cane, nearly 200 stu­dents and fac­ulty lost ev­ery­thing in the af­ter­math of the storm.

TCHS staff had de­vel­oped a cam­paign called “Mak­ing Change,” with the goal of cre­at­ing 197 back­packs filled with school sup­plies for ca­reer & tech­ni­cal stu­dents at Dr. Kirk Lewis CTHS im­pacted by Hur­ri­cane Har­vey.

“When these stu­dents were told they had a short time to evac­u­ate, they needed to take the most im­por­tant things in the world with them. Given those cir­cum­stances, it’s not sur­pris­ing to think they wouldn’t have been able to take their school sup­plies. With so many of these stu­dents dis­placed we felt that this is some­thing we could pro­vide that would bring some nor­malcy back into their lives,” said For­est.

TCHS stu­dents were given the op­por­tu­nity to spon­sor a stu­dent in this ef­fort. TCHS stu­dents re­ceived the first name of their spon­sored stu­dent and will be re­spon­si­ble for pur­chas­ing a new back­pack and sup­plies to fill it. Stu­dents also have the op­por­tu­nity to do­nate their spare change, which will be used to pur­chase ad­di­tional sup­plies and help to­wards the cost of ship­ping the back­packs. Each stu­dent who do­nates to the cam­paign will have his or her name put on a star that will be placed on a large ban­ner in the cafe­te­ria. The ban­ner is be­ing do­nated by Den­ron Signs in Thorn­dale and is de­signed to re­sem­ble the Texas state flag.

The cam­paign will last for two weeks. At its con­clu­sion, the two schools are planning to have a si­mul­ta­ne­ous vir­tual assem­bly so that stu­dents, staff and ad­min­is­tra­tors can meet one an­other and con­nect.

Deb­o­rah Wat­son, school to ca­reer spe­cial­ist at TCHS Brandywine, noted that the idea for “Mak­ing Change” stemmed from the school’s Big Team. The Big Team is the Stu­dent As­sis­tance Pro­gram for TCHS Brandywine, which is re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing a se­cure and drug-free environment and pro­mot­ing men­tal health well­ness. “Our Big Team was meet­ing and we be­gan to dis­cuss that we had stu­dents who had ap­proached us about want­ing to help in light of the many re­cent nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. So, we be­gan brain­storm­ing and came up with the idea of look­ing to see if we could help ca­reer & tech­ni­cal stu­dents who were im­pacted by Hur­ri­cane Har­vey,” said Wat­son.

Frank McKnight, prin­ci­pal of TCHS Brandywine, be­lieves that this ini­tia­tive

re­ally re­flects the strong bond that stu­dents in ca­reer & tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion share. “What amazes me about the ‘Mak­ing Change’ project is how much the stu­dents and staff have re­ally taken this idea and run with it. In my pro­fes­sional ex­pe­ri­ence, I have al­ways seen that stu­dents in ca­reer & tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion share a spe­cial bond,” said McKnight.

“These stu­dents have never met their coun­ter­parts in Texas. Yet, our stu­dents saw them­selves in these stu­dents and are work­ing hard to help them be­cause they share that spe­cial bond of shared in­ter­ests and ed­u­ca­tional pur­suits. We launched this project on Fri­day and we al­ready have sup­plies and do­na­tions flood­ing in from stu­dents who feel this bond with peo­ple liv­ing across the coun­try whom they’ve never met,” said McKnight.

The staff at TCHS Brandywine view “Mak­ing Change” as not just an op­por­tu­nity to help those in need, but also as a learn­ing op­por­tu­nity for their stu­dents. James Fusco, Mar­ket­ing & Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices in­struc­tor, sees this as an im­por­tant les­son in how to pre­pare his stu­dents for the world be­yond TCHS. “I al­ways hear my stu­dents talk about all of the prob­lems in the world and how it can be over­whelm­ing to fig­ure out how to even be­gin ad­dress­ing them. I think this project is im­por­tant be­cause it is an op­por­tu­nity to solve a prob­lem for one stu­dent at a time by restor­ing a sense of nor­malcy to their day to day lives,” said Fusco.

Troy Camp­bell, Com­mer­cial & Graphic Arts in­struc­tor, sees this as a great way to em­pha­size the im­por­tance of com­mu­nity to his stu­dents. “Any stu­dent who de­cides to pur­sue ca­reer & tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion re­al­izes that it is a big de­ci­sion. I think this project re­ally res­onated with my stu­dents be­cause they re­al­ized even though these stu­dents are dif­fer­ent from them, they share this com­mon bond of ca­reer & tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion. Com­mu­nity is ex­tremely im­por­tant, but I think this helps them re­al­ize that their com­mu­nity isn’t lim­ited by ge­og­ra­phy. I think the con­nec­tion makes it more real for them,” said Camp­bell.

While the back­packs filled with school sup­plies are the main fo­cus of this cam­paign, TCHS Brandywine has sought out other ways to help out. Af­ter talk­ing with ad­min­is­tra­tors at Dr. Kirk Lewis CTHS, TCHS Brandywine ad­min­is­tra­tors were in­formed that there was a short­age of dust masks. So, TCHS is do­nat­ing 600 dust masks to Dr. Kirk Lewis CTHS.

In ad­di­tion, the Health Ca­reer Path­ways in­struc­tor is do­nat­ing scrubs to help with the needs of their health pro­fes­sional pro­grams. TCHS fac­ulty is even rais­ing money to help the six in­struc­tors at Dr. Lewis CTHS who also lost ev­ery­thing in the hur­ri­cane.

How­ever, TCHS Brandywine is not alone is this cam­paign. The Ch­ester County In­ter­me­di­ate Unit is mak­ing a fi­nan­cial do­na­tion to con­trib­ute to­wards the cost of ship­ping the back­packs. The Child and Ca­reer De­vel­op­ment Cen­ter (CCDC) is also help­ing by do­nat­ing the pro­ceeds of its own hur­ri­cane fundraiser to help with se­cur­ing sup­plies and as­sist­ing with the cost of ship­ping.

“I need to give so much credit to both my staff and the stu­dents here for their pas­sion and en­ergy with this project. In a short amount of time they have stepped up to help their fel­low stu­dents and ed­u­ca­tors who have lost so much,” said McKnight.

“We all have so many things that con­nect us in ways we don’t al­ways think about. In this case, what con­nects these stu­dents to their coun­ter­parts in Texas is that they are pur­su­ing the same kind of ca­reers and pro­grams. And those con­nec­tions are so much greater than any dif­fer­ences they may have,” said McKnight.

The “Mak­ing Change” cam­paign will last un­til Oc­to­ber 13. Any­one in­ter­ested in mak­ing a fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tion to­wards the cost of ship­ping or se­cur­ing school sup­plies should email Deb­o­rah Wat­son at skill­susa@cciu.org or call the main of­fice at 484-5935100 for more in­for­ma­tion.

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