At APA, a flood of students serving others
Walking into the Wayne County Relief Collections Center, APA student volunteers Sam Okonkwo and Blythe Brantley demonstrate the spirit of SERV. Photo by Vicki Kennedy / Arendell Parrott Academy
With their school closed for nine straight days, Arendell Parrott Academy students reached out to help those struggling with Hurricane Florence’s aftermath across Eastern North Carolina.
Coming from 12 different counties, APA students encountered various forms of storm damage, including flooding in their own homes, devastated schools and churches, and communities with displaced residents in need of a hot meal.
Science teacher and community service coordinator Leslie Lewis noted that between September 12th and 23rd, Parrott students spent over 300 hours volunteering in their communities.
Approximately 20 students came out to the school’s Kinston campus to help maintenance staff clean up debris. Others used their week out of school to deliver food to missions, cook and serve in soup kitchens, transport furniture to shelters, chainsaw downed trees in schoolyards and clean elderly neighbors’ yards.
In Kinston, APA senior Wrenn McCrae Whitfield reached out to her fellow students and coordinated a group work day to help restore Trinity United Methodist Church on Banks School Road. Freshman Lexi Connolly and senior Aliza Matthews helped load up furniture from King’s Restaurant and transport it to higher ground before the Neuse River crested.
Lewis credits the school’s SERV Society Advisory Council with working hard to seek out places needing assistance.
“These student leaders—Reagan Perry, Lillian Warner, Miller Andrews, William McPhaul, and Jeff Bland—helped find service opportunities, and I used internet and email to keep students informed about where they were needed,” Lewis explained.
SERV—which stands for Students Effectively Realizing Their Value—was established in 1995 as an honor society recognizing community service. It promotes student involvement throughout the year, and especially encourages students to lend aid to their own communities during natural disasters.
”Unlike some schools, we don’t require our students to fulfill a certain number of volunteer hours,” Headmaster Bert Bright noted. “It’s voluntary. That’s why I’m proud of our kids’ desire to serve others. At APA, we believe that community involvement and awareness are important factors in developing well-rounded students.”