I’m spending my evening sorting through large tubs of tools, gloves, first aid kits, and toothbrushes. In just under 72 hours, Interact of Royal Oak High School (our youth Rotary) will begin its seventh disaster relief trip, this time journeying to Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, to help eight families return to their homes after last summer’s Hurricane Isaac.
This will be our largest trip yet, with 68 Royal Oak High School students, a dozen chaperones (from teachers and parents to school board members and community leaders), and two dozen students and teachers from Southfield-Lathrup and Farmington High Schools. We’ve never all met in one place before, but somehow we will become an efficient working machine for the next week.
About half have never done anything like this, and I am excited for them. In over 26 years of teaching, I have yet to find an experience which matches such a trip in building confidence and motivation in my students. Some have never lifted a hammer before this next week: once we’re done, they will have learned to assess unexpected problems, organize teams, and bring real solutions to people in need. They will find themselves dirty, bruised, and tired, and yet stronger. And they’ll know how to cook for 100!
I watch my alumni return to lead and mentor; my experienced students will set a standard for focus and intensity of effort. And we will need them: Plaquemines, the only land south of New Orleans, has been damaged more grievously than in the past 35 years, including Hurricane Katrina. We are rightfully compelled by the stories of the East Coast and Sandy; August’s Isaac submerged Plaquemines and left people homeless even now, eight months later.
And so these students will spend their February Break from school in challenging and rewarding work, having raised the funds and gathered their tools and safety gear. I could not be more proud of them.
Read about us here this next week, from Feb. 18-22, as I invite Royal Oak’s young people to write about their experiences here on Patch. We’ll post some photos, too! Or, if you prefer additional updates, follow us on Twitter: @schisnell.
So many thanks to so many in our community who help make a trip like this possible. I want you to see the difference you made for the families of Louisiana and for our own students.