April 25, 2018

Students form ‘guerilla relief’ effort to help hurricane stricken classrooms

The Allstate Foundation and local Allstate agencies helped students in Virginia deliver relief packages to classrooms in need in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Students representing Virginia High School League schools are coming together for the good of Virgin Island schools that continue to struggle after the effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. Photo courtesy of the Virginia High School League

More than 900 Virginia high school students gathered on April 13-14 to participate in a kind of “guerrilla relief” effort targeting Virgin Island schools devastated by the back-to-back 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria—the two strongest storms of the year—which caused a combined $156 billion in damage across the region.

Guerrilla relief efforts typically function at the margins of formal global relief operations. They are designed to alleviate the suffering of a specific community by delivering specialized goods or services and are often able to cut through the bureaucratic red tape that tends to burden large relief efforts.

The students gathered were part of the Virginia High School League’s (VHSL) effort to support Adopt a Classroom, U.S. Virgin Islands, an initiative that pairs “adopters” with specific classrooms in the Virgin Islands impacted by the hurricanes in order to facilitate the sending of various needed classroom items. Adopters spend anywhere between $750 and $1,000 per classroom, according to the organization’s website.

The community service project was planned by local high school students as part of the VHSL Ken Tilley Student Leaders Conference, which was held at Monacan High School in North Chesterfield, Virginia, and was supported in part by The Allstate Foundation. The conference brings together hundreds of students for a weekend of workshops and sessions intended to help them unlock leadership potential that carries over into their schools and communities. Part of the conference was spent assembling the relief packages to send to the U.S. Virgin Islands classrooms.

"It doesn’t really matter how old you are, you can really get a movement started. It doesn’t matter how big or small you are. If you believe in something, you can really get that done." — Monacan High School student

“Many schools were completely devastated by Hurricane Irma in 2017, and after seven months they are still in need of classroom supplies,” said Caitlyn Barron, Corporate Relations, Allstate Insurance. “The Allstate Foundation is proud to support these exceptionally outstanding students for their initiative both in and outside the classroom. These amazing young leaders are the future and their energy is both contagious and invigorating.”

The student-led effort was an inspiration to adults, too. “The students at Monacan High School are such advocates,” said Steven Rivera, Allstate exclusive agent-North Chesterfield, Virginia. “They inspired me and my agency to get involved.” Rivera was among a group of 29 Allstate agents involved in the effort.

Participating students were encouraged to write personal notes to their counterparts in the USVI, which were included in the packages.

“We can learn that it doesn’t really matter how old you are, you can really get a movement started,” wrote one Monacan High School student. “I know that we are just high schoolers but we really wanted to push this idea of helping others out and becoming involved in our community, making this a giant community issue. It really doesn’t matter how big or small you are, if you believe in something, you can really get that done. That is what we will take back to our communities.”

Brock Meeks

Brock Meeks is a contributor for The Renewal Project.