Port Allen High School’s JAG program (Jobs for America’s Graduates) is putting an emphasis on community service this school year with a fund to benefit victims of Hurricane Harvey.
The drive, dubbed Helping Houston, will aid YES Prep Public Schools, a charter school system in the Greater Houston area. The drive is centered at Port Allen High School but is a parish-wide effort, said Louise Stewart, PAHS’ JAG specialist.
“It’s a group effort – a West Side effort,” Stewart said.
Donors can contribute to the effort by visiting the Helping Houston Amazon wish list, Stewart said. The drive will last for at least two more weeks, she said.
The school has already collected a number of donations from local organizations, including a $600 donation from John Dickerson, Sr. of Mount Zion Church in Erwinville.
Several other storms have come through the Gulf of Mexico or nearly missed it since Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas and western Louisiana in late August. However, the relief in Houston is a long way from finished and many people are only now finding out what they need in the storm’s aftermath.
Stewart’s daughter, a teacher at YES Prep, recently discovered one of her students lost all of her school uniforms in the storm.
“They’re slowly finding out still that kids don’t have certain things,” Stewart said.
Community service is one of five aspects that JAG students focus on throughout the school year. Stewart said the students are also providing their services this month to Relay for Life in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month.
JAG is a federally funded program that aims to keep students in school and help them secure secondary education and entry-level work after high school.
Thursday, Oct. 5, marked the initiation and installment of the JAG class of 2017-18.
“Because students face so many barriers, JAG is there to help them overcome those barriers by teaching them employability skills, teaching them how to dress and bringing in guest speakers,” Stewart said.
Stewart maintains a close relationship with the JAG students for one year after graduation to make sure they are employed or continuing their education.
“When I graduated high school, I realized I wasn’t in school anymore,” said D’Brylia Claiborne, class of 2017, in an emotional testimony to the new JAG students. “My life had begun.”
Guest speaker, Demetris Sumner, assistant attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana, offered a few words of encouragement to the class:
“You guys will be the ones who will change the world. That seems like a big task, but you can make a difference in the world by first making a difference in yourself.”