Hurricane Healing: A Weekend Reprieve for Hurricane Impacted Students

After last summer’s hurricanes ravaged Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico, WorldStrides felt compelled to help. True to our mission, we chose to focus on the young people whose lives have been turned upside down by the continued efforts to rebuild. On Presidents’ Day weekend, we escorted 42 eighth grade students on an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C.

Hurricane Healing Students Visiting White House
Hurricane Healing Students Visiting White House

It was a weekend of many firsts for the students. With eyes open wide and mouths agape, students not only learned about American history, they got to experience it too.

Heck, there was even snow!

Jalen Cunningham showing off his snowball.
Jalen Cunningham showing off his snowball.

Coming from Texas and Florida, snow isn’t a regular occurrence for these kids, but when the first snowflakes fell at Arlington National Cemetery, their smiles widened. They were giddy, and when the snow started to stick, they made snowballs.

Other stops on the itinerary included the Smithsonian museums, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Mount Vernon and lots of memorials. Some of our favorite moments included:

  • While we were visiting the Pentagon Memorial, Holthouse Boys & Girls Club student Eric Morales said, “It is my duty to know about history. It honors those who went before me.”
  • Seeing the amazement in their eyes when walking up the stairs to the Lincoln Memorial. “It’s so BIG!” the students shrieked. “How tall would he be if he was standing upright?!” they asked the Course Leaders.
  • Watching friendships bud and blossom. By the end of the weekend, phone numbers were exchanged and Facebook friend requests had been made. “This was more than a weekend,” said Attucks Middle School student Jalen Cunningham. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Students meeting General and Mrs. Washington at Mount Vernon.
Students meeting General and Mrs. Washington at Mount Vernon.

While we set out to make sure the weekend wasn’t a somber one, stories and first-hand accounts from the hurricane damage were part of the conversation. “My house had over five feet of water in it. We still can’t live there,” said Logan Ackley from Riverwood Middle School outside of Houston. “Our town was hit pretty hard, but we are a strong community and we will rebuild,” said Emily Suarez from Marathon, Florida in the Florida Keys.

These students’ resilience and ability to overcome adversity is admirable. They are wise beyond their years and many great things lie ahead for them. The destruction they have witnessed moved us all.

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