Calhoun students aid in Sandy relief effort


When the 26 students in Calhoun High School’s leadership class were batting around ideas for a community service project in November, they didn’t debate their cause –– they wanted to do something, anything, to aid those whose homes had been ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.

And when they went looking for possible projects, they thought immediately of Long Beach, which took the brunt of the storm, suffering an estimated $250 million in damage.

On Dec. 14, 17 of the students boarded a school bus and headed for two homes on Long Beach’s East End, where they spent the day helping homeowners rip out floors, walls and appliances that had been damaged by floodwaters.

The students split into two groups for the day. The Herald tagged along with one group, which visited a single-story, red-brick ranch on a canal. The homeowner, who described himself as a Long Beach professional, did not want to be identified.

All Hands Volunteers, an international nonprofit relief group, organized the rip-out effort. Jake Soule, a licensed carpenter who had come from Seattle to aid in the post-Sandy rebuilding effort, served as All Hands’ team leader at the home.

Soule handed out plastic glasses and dust masks to the Calhoun students and explained the site’s safety procedures. He made sure that all of the volunteers were at least 16 years old. The only requirement to join in an All Hands project is that minimum age, Soule told the Herald. “Anyone can show up, as long as you’re willing to work,” he said.

Soon the Calhoun students were tearing out flooring with shovels, pulling out drywall nails with hammers and hauling appliances to the curb.

“I was so eager to get down here and help these people,” said senior Nicole Fedorko, 17. “It was so devastating. I really felt bad [about] what happened here. It’s just such a huge experience.”

Accompanying the students were social studies teacher Brian Joyce, who teaches the leadership class, English teacher Peter Magnuson and special education inclusion teacher David Quartarone.

“I think it’s great that the kids will have accomplished something for the local community,” Magnuson said as the students were leaving Calhoun for Long Beach.

Nicole Hollings, an assistant principal at Calhoun, said she approved the project right away when Joyce and the students proposed it. “I immediately said, let’s find a bus, let’s get this done,” Hollings said. “It’s incredibly important for the students to see how their work can positively benefit people in the community.”

Yes, Hollings said, the students would lose a day of classroom instruction, but the lessons in giving that they would learn in Long Beach would last a lifetime.