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Olympia High School Students Headed to New Orleans
for Katrina Recovery Project

(Olympia High School, Orlando, FL) — A group of fifty Olympia High School students will spend their spring break assisting fellow students in New Orleans get back to school in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The students are volunteering with the Paint Rally for New Orleans Public Schools program coordinated through Tulane University. Students will help paint and beautify schools damaged by Katrina and the subsequent flooding.

As the news from New Orleans unfolded about the path of destruction left by Hurricane Katrina, Olympia students mobilized as did the rest of the nation in a search for ways to help. Stephanie Johnson-Possell, life-management skills teacher at Olympia, initially came up with the idea of rallying the students and staff to send school supplies to the schools in New Orleans. As the news grew grim, school supplies seemed secondary to the basic human needs that were going unfulfilled. The school re-focused on raising and donating thousands of dollars to the Red Cross.

As an educator, Possell still had hopes of helping the schools get back in session when an idea was born brainstorming with a teaching colleague, Takumi Sato. The two teachers contemplated ways students could reach out to those in need in the Gulf region. They arrived at the tremendous possibilities for students to give and gain from a humanitarian aid spring break trip. Obstacles were encountered along the way, but the school PTSA partnered with the teachers to help make the trip possible. The pieces came together as a destination and service project were established.

One hurdle remains. Possell and Sato would like to alleviate the cost to the students to participate in the project. "The students are volunteering to spend their spring break helping others. It doesn't seem right if they have a financial burden as they are already giving so much of themselves to go on the trip" said Sato. "The cost of transportation alone is significant so any help we can get will go a long way."

The students will depart on Friday, March 10, 2006, for their week long experience and stay in a FEMA Base Camp or "tent city" for volunteers once they reach their destination. Students will have an opportunity to show their support as did so many others when central Florida endured a violent storm season in 2004. While their peers are on vacation, these students will work to help New Orleans schools re-open their doors and get back to the business of learning.

The group is in need of financial and material support from community members and businesses to cover the expense and needs of the trip. Please contact Takumi Sato,, or Stephanie Johnson-Possell, to discuss sponsorship opportunities and needs.