Saintly behavior

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy

At the end of a twisted dirt driveway in rural Bogalusa, LA, Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s beloved guidance counselor, Mrs. Deidre Dickens, tried not to panic.

She and her husband, John, had driven 22 straight hours in their semi-trailer truck packed with thousands of supplies to explore the fate of her parents, Jackie and Murphy Williams, and her 97-year-old grandmother, Evie Mitchell, and to offer help to this small community she once called home. Although her parents and grandmother fared well, the chaos and destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina was something she could never imagine.

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The battered images of her treasured childhood were something she would never forget.

Two hundred and fifty hours later, she was back in her NSA office tattered, torn and dazed; but back to work, never the less.

She would have stayed longer, but &uot;It was the first month of school and there were so many kids that needed me,&uot; she said.

It was with this reality and thousand of other stories like it, that NSA students and faculty have mobilized to help with relief efforts. In a number of activities around campus, student groups have worked to collect donations to send to the affected areas in the Gulf Region.

In the Lower School, which is comprised of students in pre-kindergarten through seventh grade, a group of mothers donated their personal collection of Tyco Beanie Babies.

More than 550 students wrote a personal note and sent a Beanie Baby along with candy in a plastic bag to displaced children relocated to the Houston area.

&uot;There is something very touching about kids helping kids,&uot; said Nancy Webb, NSA’s Lower School Headmaster. &uot;When I read their notes, it gave me goose bumps. Their innocence and genuine concern was overwhelming,&uot;

To raise more money, the sixth and seventh grade students held a dance while other Lower School students sold braided bracelets and baked food. Red Cross collection buckets were also used to collect students’ spare change, assuring everyone’s participation in the relief effort.

The students in grades 8 through 12 are diligently working to raise money as well.

Currently, they have raised more than $3,000 and are still collecting proceeds from football games, dances, &uot;Change for Change&uot; Red Cross buckets and car washes.

NSA Head of School Shane Foster said the projects are a fun and fulfilling way to raise awareness by engaging all ages in the school. In providing short-term relief and development assistance for the disaster victims, NSA students are learning first-hand about community service.

&uot;This is an absolutely fabulous example of kids recognizing the need to assist others during this tragic time,&uot; Foster said. &uot;Often we talk about community service…this is community service in action. NSA’s Saints are Saints, indeed.&uot;