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Pearson team up to help stricken school

POULSBO — Students at Hilder Pearson Elementary wanted to make a contribution, and after almost two months of collection, their efforts are readily apparent. In fact, segments of the Kitsap community have joined with the school’s donations to help a disaster-stricken school in rural Mississippi.

Much like the rest of Southeast United States, Gulfview Elementary in the coastal town of Lakeshore was rocked by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in September. Like so many others, the school’s building was demolished by the pulverizing power of nature.

Nearly 2,800 miles away in Poulsbo, students at Pearson wanted to help.

“It was totally a student-motivated idea as they asked, ‘What can we do?’” said third grade teacher Karen Trudeau, adding that the topic arose at the beginning of the school year through discussions about the hurricanes’ aftermath.

“It is really cool to do this project,” said third-grader Kyla Barnes. “If something went wrong here I would hope that a school like Gulfview would donate to us.”

When the wheels started turning, Trudeau took the idea to the top of the Pearson administration with the aim of getting her students involved. But after trying to utilize one of the overloaded national relief-efforts, she started getting impatient.

So she went online.

Trudeau was put in touch with Gulfview Elementary’s lead teacher Maria Lott. The connection bridged the country.

“Things have been very busy; we have moved into our ‘trailer suites,’” Lott said of the temporary classrooms, which are housing Gulfview classes as their school waits to be razed. “The reality is about to hit in the community. We have received great things from the community up there (in Kitsap) from supplies, to books and musical instruments.”

Pearson students and teachers alike began compiling basic school needs such as writing utensils, watercolors and glue sticks in early October. Two boxes of supplies have already been sent to aid Gulfview’s recovery.

New and gently used books are being collected from home libraries, scholastic book orders as well as Pearson’s recent book fair. Trudeau said that 450 books have already been sent to help keep Gulfview reading, and she has more waiting to be packed.

“I believe that we will shift our focus to strictly books to help rebuild their school library,” said Trudeau. “Since we are unable to accept cash donations, mailing books at the media rate is within our reach.”

Mailing school supplies is much more expensive than books, Trudeau said. Since the school cannot accept financial donations, people looking for ways to help can “adopt-a-box.” Mail rates for the boxes are in the $10-14 range, for more information contact Trudeau at ktrudeau@nksd.wednet.edu.

Another way of joining Pearson’s relief effort is contacting Trudeau to find out how to submit books or supplies for delivery to Mississippi.

Some members of the North Kitsap community have already added books to the boxes at Pearson and musical instruments and a computer keyboard have been sent South thanks to a Kitsap residents, Lott said.

The Bremerton-based USS John C. Stennis crew, recently on duty in the Gulf, also took the opportunity to help out with some of Gulfview’s heavy lifting. Though the school was destroyed, its playground equipment stood the test. The USS Stennis crew helped dismantle and move the playground to another location making way for clean-up.

“Because our students at Pearson were interested and doing something, it has had a ripple effect throughout the community,” Trudeau said of the involvement.

The Pearson community has woven its efforts into everyday life at the school, and though the students get excited as the numbers go up, everything is pretty much business as usual, Trudeau said.

But third grade classes have also “seized the opportunity to make this an important of the curriculum,” Trudeau said. In social studies and science classes, students are learning about natural disasters and how they affect human lives.

“We are helping other people,” Trudeau’s student Kylee Butler said. “We may not know who they are but I bet they are excited that we are sending books.”

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