Lessons from Sandy

Superstorm Sandy robbed so many New Yorkers and New Jerseyans of their sense of normalcy. Even though it took so much, the storm gave us an opportunity to learn some valuable lessons about kids...

1. Kids are resilient.

A child's ability to bounce back is incredible. When our students were finally able to get back to school I was amazed to hear about their reactions.

Krista Purnell, who oversees Citizen Schools' Newark programs, said, "With the storms leaving students in Newark with out power, heat, and water, in some cases, it was encouraging to hear about how much they wanted to get back to the business of learning. It is good to know that even as our communities are weathering the aftermath of the storms, the students are still invested in school and our program. This truly speaks to the resilience of our students, families, and communities at such a challenging time."

Aaron Bothner, Campus Director at Newark Early College High School, was overwhelmed by the students' response.

He said, "Our students came back to school a day earlier than we were able to start program again because of the Nor'Easter. I went to school and spent lunch with them that day. Immediately when I walked to the cafeteria a full table of students pulled me aside begging me to run program. It was great to see their excitement for Citizen Schools and for life to return to normal so they could get back to learning."

2. Kids are compassionate.

Even though so many are still suffering the damage from the storm themselves, our students have graciously stepped up to help others in the community.

The kids at Newark Early College High School wrote letters to victims staying at a local shelter that is housing families displaced by Sandy. In the letters students show a tremendous sense of optimism in the face of disaster. It's inspiring. Here's what one letter said:

"We all need someone to lean on in these bad times. Don't think you're the only one going through things because you're not. All I can say is I'll pray for you from the bottom of my heart. I'm sorry for what has happened to you."

3. Kids are up against a lot.

A natural disaster like Sandy is one of many possible hardships that kids face outside of school. They might come from a single parent home. They might be an English-language learner. Their parents might work difficult hours. Sometimes children are up against really tough odds. We can help them through it by making sure that school is a place of opportunity-- where every student, regardless of situation, is able to learn, grow and succeed.

Lucy Castillo, Executive Director of Citizen Schools New Jersey said, "Citizen Schools taps into the bountiful skills and talents of the community every day to execute our program to students across Newark.  So, I have always known everyday citizens to be incredibly generous with their time and talent.  They are the differentiators that help us realize our mission of "Educating students, strengthening communities" daily.  However, I was bowled over by the level of generosity, resilience and compassion exhibited over the last few weeks for Hurricane Sandy relief.  Newark was hit hard, but its people, its communities are tougher than Sandy!  Newark is known as Brick City and it is because together we can and must build our future, brick by brick."

You can be a building brick in New Jersey and New York, long after we recover from Sandy. By continuing to serve each other and the community you can help build the future. The spring will be here before we know it. Sign up to teach an apprenticeship and show these resilient, compassionate kids that they can beat the odds.