Stefen L. Givens | 11/26/2008 11:34:23 PM
Donations from across the state are beginning to make their way to the St. Helena Parish High School where students are in makeshift classrooms following a Nov. 3 fire that destroyed their school.
Stefen Givens, LSU AgCenter/Southern University Ag Center parish chair for St. Helena Parish, said soon after the fire parents expressed their concerns about the children’s education.
Some of the parents had children enrolled in computer-based college courses, and the parents really didn’t want to see the students fall behind.
In response, Givens made contact with LSU AgCenter staff members in Washington and St. Tammany parishes about the availability of surplus computers to help the students.
Both parishes agreed to allow their computers to be used in the St. Helena Parish office where a number of students are taking advantage of the 10 work stations set up by Southeast Region information technology technician Mia Lewis, Givens said.
At a recent school board meeting, St. Helena school superintendent Daisy Sloan recognized the LSU AgCenter for quick action to an immediate problem.
Givens said a challenge went out from the LSU AgCenter administration to 4-H clubs across the state to help their fellow 4-H members.
“Since last year, all St. Helena public school students are 4-H members,” Givens said. “The St. Helena school board pays their dues.”
Givens said this school supply drive is an excellent way to show the “power of 4-H” and that the Louisiana 4-H organization is a tightknit family.
Angela Myles, extension youth development agent with the Southern University Ag Center, said the school is really in need of any donations that can be provided.
“It’s not just the big items. There is a need for the little things like pencils, pens and paper,” Myles said.
Large items like teachers and students desks have been donated by St. Tammany and Livingston parishes. St. Tammany Parish also has donated overhead projectors, textbooks and monetary donations to the school.
“We have also received monetary donations from Covington, Madisonville, New Orleans, St. Landry Parish, East Baton Rouge and as far away as Shreveport,” Givens said.
Gary Porter, St. Helena High School principal, said he and his 40 staff members are appreciative of the efforts of the LSU AgCenter and the Southern University Ag Center in helping to get the students back on campus and learning.
“A lot of our teachers are very technology-oriented, and they use a lot of technology in their classes,” Porter said. “But with them having to hold class in the gym and auditorium, we don’t have the capability to use the technologies that we were accustomed to in the destroyed building.”
He said plans are underway to make use of portable classrooms on-site to ensure that the students don’t miss any more instruction.
“We missed four days after Hurricane Gustav and another five days after the fire, but we have implemented plans to keep the students on track with their studies,” Porter said.
Givens said 4-H activities in the school have been put on a temporary hold.
“Since the holidays are coming up, we will not be having our formal 4-H Club meeting back at the high school until after the first of the year,” Givens said. “It’s more important for these students to get back into their educational routine and, like 4-H in the past, it’s important for us to assist with their educational endeavors.”