Help is on the way

Beaty students contribute to Puerto Rico relief effort

Pictured from left to right are Beaty students Michael Moore, Kirsten Johnson, Ellee Irwin, Taylor Napolitan, Brooke Edwards, and Cody Howard.

It’s not just an opportunity to help out, said Beaty Warren Middle School Student Council Advisor Lori Hahn, but an opportunity to learn more about our country and our world.

Hahn said that when category 4 hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in late September, many of her students weren’t even aware that the island — with a population of 3.4 million according to a article from Oct. 16 — was a United States territory. They weren’t alone.

“According to a new Morning Consult poll published in the New York Times,” the Vox article states, “only 54 percent of Americans know that Puerto Ricans are U.S. Citizens.”

That’s important, because the knowledge that Puerto Ricans are American citizens increases the likelihood that a person supports the notion that Puerto Rico is entitled to the same government response to natural disaster as any other state.

So as students worked to gather supplies to send to Puerto Ricans who are still, Hahn said, largely without power. They also worked to learn more about the nation’s “51st state.” Hahn said that she learned from a Facebook post that Praise Fellowship was working to generate donations of non-perishable food and supplies to send to Puerto Rico, and she brought it up to student council at Beaty as they were looking for their first activity of the year right about that time.

“It just all worked out,” said Hahn, who added that collecting food and supplies “was really something the kids wanted to do.”

Student Council member Ellee Irwin agreed. The best part of the whole thing, she said, was the shopping. “She doesn’t even care what she’s shopping for,” laughed Hahn.

“I just really really like to shop,” Ellee agreed.

Students from 5th to 8th grade were challenged to bring in non-perishable foods and supplies, such as flashlights, batteries, and small first aid kits. Each homeroom in the school competed to gather donations, said Hahn, and the winning homeroom will receive a doughnut party for their efforts.

Donations were accepted from Oct. 6 through Oct. 18, and by Thursday, Oct. 19 Hahn said the school had amassed at least 400 to 500 pounds of food and supplies that will be shipped to Puerto Rico courtesy of Praise Fellowship church.

And while every little bit helps the island whose infrastructure was already going obsolete when Maria hit last month, Hahn said she’s really excited that the donation drive has offered her “an opportunity to open up a discussion” with her students about the political and social implications of the unincorporated territory.

Not only has it been an opportunity to help, she said, but it’s offered a strong opportunity to educate in ways that make the lessons real and personal. “It really brings the news home,” she said. Hahn was also excited that the donation drive gave students the opportunity to help people outside of Warren. “It opens them up,” she said. “It helps them broaden their horizons and help others who really need it.”