Help for Houston is on the way

Preparing for school was a little different for Kristin Pappas, a former CMS teacher, this year. Instead of collecting school supplies and checking enrollment, Pappas – now a Houston principal -- was navigating post-Hurricane Harvey flood waters to check on her students and staff.

"My focus right now is making sure my staff and students are well-cared for and have transportation to school," said Pappas, who is the interim principal of KIPP Voyage Academy for Girls. "The water is receding, but the trauma my girls have witnessed will never recede from their memory. Families have run out of food and don't have places to stay. They don't have basic things like toothbrushes. They are waiting in long lines just to pick up deodorant."

Many of her students are sleeping in large shelters with thousands of other people. "They're crying, worried, sleepless and hopeful, but alive," said Pappas. "These are hard things to understand unless you experience it firsthand."

Pappas started her teaching career as a fifth-grade teacher at Statesville Road Elementary in 2005. After three years, she moved to Ranson IB Middle to teach sixth grade. She left Charlotte in 2010 to join the Kipp Voyage Academy. She still follows CMS on social media and was thrilled to see the district's Help for Houston program.

At the direction of Dr. Clayton Wilcox, CMS superintendent, the district has partnered with the Council of Great City Schools to collect new clothing and toiletries for Houston students.

"The Houston Independent School District has asked other districts to help it provide new clothes and toiletries for the students displaced by the storm," said Dr. Wilcox. "As a district of comparable size, we are uniquely positioned to understand the urgent needs and to respond to this request. We also recognize that a disaster like this could strike us or anyone."

Every CMS school and various departments heeded the call, collecting items from Aug. 30 to Sept. 5. A Building Services team collected all donations and took them to the old J.M. Alexander school, where  Community and Family Engagement organized a team of more than 150 volunteers to sort and pack the items. The district's donations were shipped to Houston on Sept. 8.

Jean Applewhite, administrative assistant for the Office of School Performance, spent her whole day sorting and packing items. "I feel like I am very blessed," she said. "And when you have that in your life, it is important to do for others."

The youngest volunteer was three-year-old Erick Peters who spent his day folding clothes with his mother, Shannon. "We could not contribute financially, but we believe in doing what you can do to help others," said Peters, a member of the Ridge Road PTSA. "This is such a small part of our day, but we can make an impact -- and teach my son early on that it's important to give to others."

Pappas said the donated items will be greatly appreciated in Houston.

"Right now, our families are grateful for clean socks and underwear. A small half-full bottle of hotel shampoo means the world to a family right now. We need everything down here," she said. "Especially clothes, clothes, clothes! We want all our students to feel cared for." 

To view a video about this effort click here.

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