August 30, 2017
Schools And Students Will Face Unique Challenges After Hurricane Harvey
By Zoë Stemm-Calderon
Director, Education

Having spent most of my adult life in Houston, my heart breaks for the people of Texas and all my loved ones and former colleagues and students enduring the trauma, devastation, and physical hardship of Hurricane Harvey.

It was the end of my first year of teaching in Houston’s Denver Harbor neighborhood when Tropical Storm Allison unleashed flooding across the city. As a young person living through my first natural disaster, I experienced the juxtaposition of sudden and unexpected loss, and the incredible resilience of individuals and communities in the face of adversity.

I’d lost my car in the flooding and was teaching summer school; a fellow teacher drove out of his way to pick me up each morning to give me a ride. When summer school started up again, my students told stories of houses inundated with water, precious pets missing, and doubling and tripling up with other families who had lost their homes in the flooding. 

In their stories I saw how already vulnerable communities are often disproportionately impacted by natural disasters. I also saw the power of communities to support each other –  from neighborhood families making tamales and empanadas for those hit worst by the flooding, to the donations of uniforms and school supplies coming from around the city.     

That same resilience has been on display over the past several days and will need to be drawn upon time and again as Houston moves into an extended recovery stage from an unprecedented storm.

Schools and students will face a unique set of challenges in the aftermath. In many cases, students will return to school with a new set of obstacles caused by the storm, including short and long-term displacement from their homes and communities. They will rely on their amazing educators to guide them through this experience and create an environment of calm and security that may not exist outside the school doors.

As Texas rebuilds, it is our collective responsibility to ensure schools get the resources and attention necessary to serve students who have been affected by the storm and ensure all young people feel a sense of safety and belonging. Our compassion cannot recede with the flood waters.

Please learn more about ways to aid the relief efforts in Texas in the wake of Harvey and consider lending your support.