Houston elementary school counselor helps students with Hurricane Harvey relief

Houston elementary school counselor helps students with Hurricane Harvey relief


STUDENT REPORTER, ANGELINA ABRERA: Moore Elementary
School in (inaudible) Independent School District
was more than one of 50 schools in the greater
Houston area that was damaged by Hurricane
Harvey.
Principal Patricia Meyer says the damage forced
her school to shut down completely, as the
year was just beginning.
PATRICIA MEYERS: After Hurricane Harvey when
the crews went in to assess the damage, they
discovered that there was significant damage
about anywhere from 2 1/2 to 3 feet throughout
the whole building.
It was determined then that it was not viable
for us to be there for the school year.
And so, fortunately, the district had this
building, Old (inaudible) sitting here waiting
for renovations of its own, so we were able
to move in here.
ABRERA: Christina Vinelli teaches pre-kindergarten
at Moore Elementary and also has twin girls
in the 4th grade at the school.
CHRISTINA VINELLI: We were affected by getting
approximately 4 feet of water in our home
and basically having to start all from ground
zero.
It was hard on them to start a new year expecting
the same atmosphere and it was all new.
ABRERA: Vinelli’s twin daughters immediately
felt the impact of the storm.
SOPHIA VINELLI: We were rushing out of the
house so quickly and woke up really early.
GIANNA VINELLI: We went to our aunt and uncle’s
house and stayed there for two weeks and then
went to the hotel and stayed there for a month.
ABRERA: When students finally returned to
school, administrators noticed that many kids
were acting differently and were in need of
mental health support.
CHRISTINA VINELLI: They didn’t really get
the full extend of it, so that’s where I tried
to explain to them that this is something
that’s hard on all of us.
ABRERA: School counselor Jennifer Nichols
decided to address students’ trauma head-on.
JENNIFER NICHOLS: Dealing with trauma head-on
is extremely important because if it’s left
unresolved, if trauma is left unaddressed,
it can absolutely impact your personal relationships
later on.
It can also impact how you deal with future
traumas and stressors, so if our kids are
not given the supports now that they need,
it can negatively impact their academics later
on, their friendships, and even their relationships
with everyone that they encounter in this
world.
ABRERA: Knowing that students are facing hardship,
Nichols searched for resources and connected
with experts at UNICEF and the Association
of School Behavioral Health in Houston.
They provided her with trainings around on
trauma-informed care that she brought back
to her school.
VINELLI: Ms. Nichols came through the whole
staff and trained us on what the aftermath
will be for these children.
She provided us with tools to help them cope.
NICHOLS: We focus on the emotion, because
that’s what they’re having difficulty processing
are all these emotions, and it helped them
navigate and normalize these feelings that
they’re having.
They know that–and that’s what a lot of them
articulated is that ‘Gosh, it was so helpful
knowing that I’m not alone.
I don’t feel so alone and isolated, the fact
that I’m living out of a motel.
I’m living out of my suitcase in a room full
of five people, because that guy over there’s
doing the same thing.”
And so it normalizes it.
It makes it acceptable.
And they realize, there’s nothing wrong with
me.
This is just something that happened, and
I’m going to get through it.
ABRERA: Gianna and Sophia say they learned
how to deal with difficult life situation.
SOPHIA: She taught our group how to stop bullying
and feel trust.
MEYERS: I hope the outcomes of this counseling
mean that when they come to school, they can
focus on school.
That they feel safe here, they can excel here,
and they’re not worried about the next time
it rains outside.
NICHOLS: I just want these kids to have grit,
be able to deal with and persevere through
adversity.
I want them to be kind to each other while
they’re doing it.
If I can teach them to tap into that kindness
that’s inside of them and that ability to
empathize with another human being that’s
going through something that is difficult,
man, the world would be an amazing place.
ABRERA: For the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting
Labs, this is Angelina Abrera in Houston,
Texas.

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