Tipton High School student Ashley Creek knew she needed to help her relatives whose homes were damaged by Sunday’s tornado. She wasn’t expecting her peers to help too.
Twenty-one high school and college students spent all day Tuesday helping clear debris from the homes of Creek’s mother, Kristi Noland; her uncle, Sean Noland; and her grandparents, Bill and Carol Noland, who all live on the east side of Kokomo.
“We wanted to come up and help them as much as we could,” said Creek, a senior. “I’m very blessed to see everybody out there. I didn’t expect to have so many people on such short notice.”
Creek’s friend, junior Amber Merida, put up a Facebook post on Sunday asking if anyone was interested in helping the Noland family. The next step was to get out of class on Tuesday.
“We had a meeting with (THS Principal Joe Rushton) and told him we had a lot of volunteers behind us,” Merida said.
As many as 30 THS students have left class to help clean up the storm damage this week, Rushton said. He has let parents and students decide how much school they can afford to miss. The absences are excused.
“It’s an awesome thing to see,” Rushton said. “We always talk to kids about trying to do community service, to give back and to be compassionate. This is just as important of a learning experience as what we’re doing (in class). … It’s good for them to step out and have this experience.”
The experience has been an emotional one for Creek and her family.
“It was devastating,” Creek said. “As soon as I saw my uncle’s, I thought I’d be able to be strong. But I wasn’t.”
Creek and her mother, Kristi, teared up as they talked about the damage and the high school students who had volunteered to help them recover.