June 17, 2013. When news of the devastating tornado in Moore, Oklahoma flashed across screens and in newspaper headlines last month, Title I Reading Teacher Kelley Wilson of Cove Creek School saw more than a disaster: she saw an opportunity for students to learn and to help. Wilson seized the opportunity by spearheading efforts to assist schools affected by the tornado.
“After watching the news and feeling so helpless, instead of just talking about it, we needed to take action,” said Wilson. “We are called to help those in need.” Thankfully for her colleagues, she thought of a way to help that didn’t require the re-invention of the wheel.
Wilson saw that the familiar school practice of “hat day,” in which students pay $1 on a designated Friday for the privilege of wearing a hat in school, was a quick and convenient way to channel student energies toward helping schools in Moore County. Hat days are normally individual school events, but Wilson wanted to go for a bigger impact in responding to the destruction in Oklahoma. After consulting with Superintendent Dr. David Fonseca and receiving his endorsement for the idea, assisting schools in Moore County became an approved “hat day” cause at all eight K-8 schools in the WCS system. The headline result of the WCS hat day on Friday, May 31st was the collection of $3,871.65 for the Moore County Public Schools.
Wilson credited the successful fund raising to “a collaborative effort of many amazing people in our school system.” While collecting financial donations was the key ingredient in the response, it didn’t stop there. Students at each school also wrote cards and letters to students in Moore, often including cheery and colorful illustrations alongside their words. Ray Russell (of Ray’s Weather) donated many post cards to the effort and the Blowing Rock Police Department chipped in with departmental badges and t-shirts. “It ended up being an effort of the whole county,” Wilson said.
The letters students wrote told the students in Moore County included sentiments such as “I am sorry about your school and hope it gets fixed up,” “I am thinking about you,” “I am praying for you,” and “We are keeping you in our hearts.” They also included more direct and practical comments such as “our school is sending you a bunch of money.” On a lighter note, they digressed into background information about Watauga County, including one that let Moore County students know that the writer had two dogs, Gus and Sophie, who were three and ten years old.
Wilson acknowledged that time and resources are always limited in schools, especially near the end of the year, and she was pleased with how well students, families, and school personnel overcame these obstacles to respond to the needs in Moore County. “In a time when we were overwhelmed with testing and end of the year checklists, we were able to focus on others and come together to make a difference.”
Superintendent Dr. David Fonseca commented that the efforts to assist Moore County students reflect crucial but easily overlooked aspects of education. “Some of the most important learning children can do doesn’t involve a test or even a book,” he noted. “Sometimes it’s a simple matter of saying and showing that we are all part of a larger community, that we are human beings who care about one another and who want to serve others. I’m very proud of this effort by our students and our community, but I’m not very surprised. Our commitment to building caring, constructive relationships is the foundation for the success we enjoy in our schools.”