Chatham Central AVID supporters reach out, touch peers in Onslow County

Bear Creek, NC – In addition to students in Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) acquiring the program’s proven learning strategies is a requirement for community service.

Which opens the door to routine food drives and efforts to collect clothes, toiletries and on down the line.

But natural disasters can turn the ordinary accumulation of things into pressing gatherings of life essentials.

The last day of November ended the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season. Furious storms by the names of Florence and Michael generated flooding that kept Chatham County Schools (CCS) buses parked for a little while. In fact, Hurricane Florence bit into a chunk of road near Pittsboro Elementary School that made the street impassable.

The CCS calendar needed some adjusting to make up for instructional time Florence washed away. But there was no major damage to the district’s schools, and day-to-day operations on its 17 campuses have been back to normal for quite some time.

Chatham Central High School students gathered with Jacksonville High School students at Jacksonville High in Onslow County on Dec. 7, 2018.

Not so for Onslow County Schools (OCS), where students missed anywhere from 30 to 38 school days, depending on the damage at the 38 schools there, OCS Executive Director of Community Affairs Brent Anderson said.

“We’re back to school. I don’t know if everything is back to normal yet,” Anderson said.

OCS’ Jacksonville High School was closed Sept. 11-Oct. 31. It’s an AVID school like CCS’ Chatham Central High School, where the 11th-graders collected school supplies and clothes for their peers at Jacksonville High.

“I just feel like if we were in their position, we would be wanting them to do the same thing for us,” Chatham Central student Mia Phillips said. “They must have lost so many things that it’s just crazy to think about all the things that we have that we take advantage of.”

Chatham Central students boarded a bus and delivered the supplies to Jacksonville High earlier this month.   

Chatham Central High School students coordinated supplies on campus Dec. 3, 2018, for hurricane relief for students at Jacksonville High School and others in Onslow County.

It’s a big deal, Chatham Central student John Thurman said.

“This is definitely stepping it up a notch, and we’re reaching out for a need,” Thurman said. “Normally we don’t really have a designated need for our service projects, but this is a need. These kids need these supplies, and it’s vital to be able to do it so quickly.”

“It means a lot to our kids,” Anderson said. “We had close to 1,000 students across the district who were displaced because of the storm. So the assistance that we’ve received from other school districts across the nation has been amazing.”

OCS — which has rural schools as well as a large military population with the presence of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune —  has roughly three times as many students as CCS.

But size doesn’t always matter when it comes to blessing people, Chatham Central student James McIntyre said.  

“Having a lot is being able to get stuff and receive it and give out what you do have, what’s extra,” McIntyre said.

Like Christmas.

“A lot of people think it’s about presents. It’s not. It’s about being able to give back stuff and feel better about yourself,” McIntyre said. “Giving is what it’s really all about.

“It feels good, too.”

“I feel really bad for the people who not only lost all their stuff but [also] during this holiday season haven’t been able to take care of themselves and, also on top of that, not really getting what they need,” Chatham Central student Gracie Maness said.  

“I just think how we’re so lucky to have all of our things still,” Chatham Central student Tiffany Noel said. “Just wondering what those people are going through and how hurt they are, and how stressful for not only the kids but for the parents who lost everything and can’t help their kids.”

Chatham Central educator Karen Heilman organized the community service. Laurie Paige coordinates the AVID program at Chatham Central.  

Chatham Central High School educator Karen Heilman

“[Chatham Central] always tries to make sure that everybody is included. They don’t leave anybody out,” Phillips said.

“It’s teaching us how special it is to give rather than receive,” Maness said. “A lot of us are so used to getting, and everything like that, and now we really do get a chance to get a glimpse and see what the meaning for the season is all about. That’s really special to me. I’ve had a lot of fun on this project.”