Flooding in South Carolina spurred students at Henderson Collegiate to action.
Kevin O’Quinn is a history teacher at the charter school and a native of Columbia, South Carolina. After seeing news footage of his childhood neighborhood submerged under water in October from historic flooding, O’Quinn wanted to help.
“I was really stunned. I was really shocked,” he said. “When you see images like that on the news, it’s powerful, but it’s often some far off place you don’t recognize. When I saw it I thought, ‘If I had been home, what would I have encountered?’ ”
O’Quinn enlisted the help of students at Henderson Collegiate to lend a helping hand. Students gathered toothbrushes, soap, shampoo and other personal hygiene items for those hit by the flood.
“We collected a lot of stuff ,and then it was like what do we do with it?” he said.
O’Quinn said he talked to his mother and asked around town to find the area that would most benefit from the supplies.
He soon learned of Seven Oaks Elementary, a media and technology magnet school where more than 100 students had been displaced or lost everything because of flooding. O’Quinn and his students decided that’s where they would send their donations.
“They were really excited,” he said. “It made more of an impact because they could see the kids they were helping. I think they saw themselves.”
O’Quinn said he packed up his car and drove for four hours to Columbia to take the items to a friend in the area who delivered them to Seven Oaks Elementary.
“This is such a gift from one school to another … especially in another state,” Harriet Wilson, Seven Oaks principal, said in a statement. “Our families need to save money every way they can, so anything they don’t have to pay for helps.”
Wilson said she had the items bagged up and sent home with students over the winter break. O’Quinn said Wilson plans to Skype with the Henderson Collegiate students in January to thank them for their help.
The donation was about more than helping one group of students regain some normalcy after a disaster, O’Quinn said. It was also an opportunity for Henderson Collegiate students to see how they can make a difference.
“They don’t come from the best places, but for them to give like this and put aside their needs for other people was powerful for me and it empowered them,” he said.
O’Quinn said Henderson Collegiate’s mission has three parts, two of which are to become better people and change the world. This project, he said, was the students’ opportunity to do those two things outside of the classroom.
“We rarely get to see this third part because it’s so grand and much bigger,” he said. “It’s really important for the kids to see the impact they can have now, before they’re adults.”
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