Hollywood celebrities, professional athletes and everyday citizens are banding together to help earthquake victims in Haiti, but for students in Pompano Beach, the tragedy has hit home – literally. That’s why they are doing their part to aid those in need.
Highlands Christian Academy, a private Christian school, has a considerable Haitian student population, as well as numerous staff members who are from Haiti or who have lived in Haiti. Recently, they have added a new student to the rolls – ninth-grader Channon LaPlanche, just arrived from Port-au-Prince after living through the 7.0 earthquake.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” said Channon, her brown eyes wide. “The house was shaking, and we ran outside.”
Although Channon saw tragedy and suffering all around, she and her family were spared. “God blessed us. We live on top of a mountain, and we could see all the houses down below that had fallen,” explained Channon. She says she is filled with sadness. During the day, she thinks about the quake, and at night she dreams about three close friends who were killed.
Channon is thankful that she was able to take a bus to the Dominican Republic and fly to South Florida with her mother, but she worries about her aunt and other family members who are in desperate need. “My aunt says she is running out of food, and they even need water,” Channon said.
Highlands Headmaster Ken Lopez is proud of the way students have taken Haiti’s victims to heart and are stepping up to meet the needs of the island nation.
“We look at this as more than a community obligation or service. We feel it gives our students an opportunity to live out their Christian faith,” said Lopez.
One seventh-grade student at Highlands, Taylor Robinson, organized a bake sale on her own – with all proceeds going to Haitian relief efforts. Taylor raised $125 by selling cookies, brownies and cupcakes that she and a friend baked. She set up shop outside her grandmother’s home on a Sunday morning and advertised the sale with a handmade poster. Taylor said she was motivated to help Haiti when her math teacher at Highlands, who is from Haiti, shared with the class how her family and friends had been affected by the earthquake.
Children at the elementary school are also lending a hand – and a blanket. Kindergarteners through fifth-graders have collected more than 130 gently used and new blankets for Haiti’s homeless. The large pile of blankets in the elementary school’s hallway includes tiny pastel baby blankets, colorful hand-knit afghans, fleece throws and warm comforters.
Jackie Valdes, a second-grade teacher at Highlands, says the blanket drive provides Haitians with a very basic need. “So many people are without homes, and they are sleeping on the ground, outdoors. These blankets will provide them with something to lie on and something to keep them warm at night.”
Junior high and high school students were also encouraged to help. They collected money in their Bible classes, to be donated to relief efforts. They also conducted their own specialized drive for Haiti, donating healthy energy bars and vitamin-loaded protein snacks.
Ruth Pirrie, a staff member who formerly lived in Haiti and adopted her oldest daughter from there, knows firsthand the importance of providing nutritious food to the people of Haiti. “Protein bars are such an easy thing for our students to collect, and yet they are so significant to the health of starving Haitian children. I’m so pleased with our students and faculty for stepping up to meet this great need.”
Highlands Christian Academy, located in Pompano Beach, is a fully accredited private Christian school that provides a quality education from kindergarten through 12th grade. An affiliate of Grace Baptist Church in Deerfield Beach, the school aims to create an environment in which each student’s faith in God is increased, families are strengthened and each child has limitless hope for his or her future.
For more information on the school, please visit their web site: www.HighlandsChristian.org.