KOKOMO, Ind. — Pencils, paper, and a brand-new backpack can go a long way towards providing normalcy in a storm.
Students, faculty, and staff at Indiana University Kokomo participated in a school supply drive, led by the School of Education. Friday, Michelle Reichart, visiting lecturer in educational psychology, will load a truck and trailer with the donated items, and drive them to Houston, where they will be given to children as they return to school Monday.
Reichart heard from friends who teach in the Houston Independent School District that students and teachers there have lost everything. When one friend asked if she could send some professional clothes, because her entire wardrobe was ruined, Reichart knew she needed to take action.
“It’s the nature of being an educator,” she said. “Everything is about the kids. When they need something, teachers find a way to make it happen.”
She spoke to Dean Leah Nellis, who put the word out on campus about the school supply drive. Sharon Johnson, administrative secretary, set out a metal cart, and watched as it filled with highlighters, boxes of crayons and colored pencils, piles of notebooks, reams of paper, and backpacks. By Thursday morning, three carts were full to overflowing.
Reichart especially appreciates donations from IU Kokomo students, knowing that most are on limited budgets.
“Even with their limited resources, they are moved to donate,” she said.
News of the drive spread, and Johnson received a call from a local florist, asking to make a donation. While she was at a store purchasing items, she talked about it, and people there gave her money for additional supplies, including her cashier. Students, faculty, and staff from the School of Education and other programs also gave.
“It just moved me so much that people who didn’t know me wanted to help and be part of the drive,” said Johnson. “We’ve all felt helpless watching from so far away, and we all want to do something to offer our assistance.”
More than 100 backpacks have been donated, and will be filled with supplies and waiting for children when they go back to school Monday.
Reichart said teachers and their students lost everything in their classrooms, and many also lost their homes and personal belongings. School officials have no idea how many children to expect to return as they begin re-opening Monday, because families are in shelters or staying with family and friends.
“By giving these supplies, we just want to help them as they start to get back to normal,” she said.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.