Thank You Lampeter-Strasburg -- Lancaster,Pennsylvania
Posted on Sun, Nov. 06, 2005
Moments to remember — Homecoming creates bonds
By MELISSA M. SCALLAN — firstname.lastname@example.org
When students from Long Beach, Pass Christian and Lampeter-Strasburg (Pa.) high schools gather at the Friendship Oak this morning, they hope it will mark the beginning of friendships that will last much longer than Hurricane Katrina's impact.
The Pennsylvania students came to Long Beach to put on a homecoming dance for the two storm-damaged high schools but say they feel they've received much more than they've given.
"I've met a couple of people already, and they are so nice," said Abi Mentzer, a sophomore at L-S High School. "Most of the kids here have already formed friendships, and we want to keep up with them."
The 40 students and 13 adults arrived Thursday with all the fixings for a homecoming dance - decorations, food, a photographer and a disc jockey.
They even sent clothes a couple of weeks in advance.
Saturday morning, they sent the Coast students packing, saying they wanted the decorations for the "Hollywood Nights" theme to be a total surprise.
Some students carried food from a refrigerated truck into the cafeteria, while others put up movie posters on the wall and set up the sound system.
Saturday night, the group rolled out the red carpet, literally, and even played the part of the paparrazi as local "stars" entered the transformed gym.
While the underclassmen took on the task of decorating, the seniors from Pennsylvania went to Pass Christian to help gut an elderly couple's house that had been destroyed by the hurricane.
The female students from Long Beach and Pass Christian were ushered into a makeshift beauty shop in one of the classrooms at Long Beach High.
Four hairstylists and three assistants from NXT Hair Design Team in Pennsylvania performed their scissor magic on more than 60 girls for Saturday night's dance.
Russ Survance acted as the receptionist and gofer as his wife, Michele, and her co-workers did hair. Russ works for S&K Men's Wear, which donated ties for the boys to wear Saturday night.
"It's a good way to show (students) that people love them and care," he said. "They've been through so much. They think we're doing them a favor, but they're doing us a favor. You can't walk away from here and not have an image that will stay with you forever."
The local students said they always will remember the Pennsylvanians' generosity.
"I think it's really sweet because no one here has a lot," said Devin Smith, a sophomore at Long Beach. "It's helping us get back to normal."
Alysia Ozene, a senior at Pass Christian, agreed. "We thought we weren't going to have anything. I think it's great that they're doing this for us."
Posted on Sat, Nov. 05, 2005
Emotional meltdown --- Students stunned by devastation
By ANITA LEE
They had arrived a day earlier from Lancaster, Pa., after two months of fundraising and planning, to give students here a homecoming. The images of Hurricane Katrina had touched their hearts. They wanted to help.
As Long Beach students yelled at the top of their lungs, each class hoping to win the coveted Spirit Banana, the Pennsylvania students struggled to understand what they had just seen during a two-hour waterfront tour.
They passed miles and miles of concrete slabs, stairs to nowhere, debris fields and broken buildings in Long Beach and Pass Christian. Many of the 40 students from Pennsylvania's Lampeter-Strasburg High School cried softly in their seats.
"Oh my gosh," was the most common response to the sights they saw through the charter bus windows.
"Words can't describe it," ninth-grader Alyssa Weaver said during the tour. "It's like an emotional meltdown. You see these pictures on TV and then you get down here and it's real."
During the trip, Kirk Sharp, Long Beach's School Board president, talked about what the Pennsylvania students' efforts meant to their Coast counterparts. As he spoke, destruction continued to unfold through the bus windows.
"You're bringing them hope, distraction, a sense of normal," Sharp said. "This is their normal right now. That's why your coming is so significant. You're giving them a sense of the future.
"The homecoming you are providing is for these students. And you can feel proud because you acted. You guys did something and you did something pretty incredible."
Sharp saw the distress on the students' faces and said: "Just remember, it's only stuff. As long as we've got our health we'll be able to rebuild and that's what's going on right now."
"The folks who live here know what hurricanes are about and we choose to live here. We're going to overcome it."
The sight awaiting students in the gym seemed to prove his point. The Long Beach students were working themselves up for a football showdown Friday night with Pass Christian.
The Pennsylvania students were called down from the bleachers, one by one, to gather at center court for a standing ovation.
They have brought everything needed for homecoming: hairdressers, gowns, a deejay. Tonight, despite Katrina, Long Beach, Pass Christian and Lampeter-Strasburg High students will celebrate homecoming together in the Long Beach High gym, an indelible memory in the making.
Posted on Fri, Nov. 04, 2005
Help from 1,000 miles away -- Pennsylvania students arrive in Long Beach
By MELISSA M. SCALLAN
The students streaming off the charter bus looked, at first glance, like they attended Long Beach schools.
After all, they were wearing gray T-shirts with "Long Beach Bearcats" emblazoned on them, and for the next several days they will be an integral part of Long Beach High School.
But the 40 students and 13 adults had just completed a 24-hour, 1,000-mile bus ride from Lancaster, Pa., when they arrived at the school district office about 1 p.m. Thursday. They were ready to work to make Homecoming 2005 a memorable one for Long Beach and Pass Christian.
"I think that since nothing like this has happened to us, I felt as a Christian it was a duty I had to help others," said Nicole Eckman, a senior at Lampeter-Strasburg High School in Lancaster.
Students at the school wanted to help after they heard about the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. When teacher Matt Cooper talked with officials in Long Beach, he decided homecoming was the best donation they could make.
Pass Christian will play Long Beach tonight for its homecoming football game, and Saturday, the two schools will hold a joint dance at the LBHS gym.
The students hit the streets, asking corporations and people for contributions. They raised about $40,000 in cash and other donations. They left Pennsylvania Wednesday afternoon, bringing food, decorations, music and a photographer.
The students didn't seem to mind the long trip.
"We were all so excited that the trip didn't seem as long," freshman Julie Zimmerman said. "I felt like it was something we wanted to do to help others."
The students participated in a homecoming parade Thursday afternoon, and today they will tour areas of the Coast ravaged by Katrina. Tonight they will attend the football game.
Saturday morning, it's back to work as they prepare food and decorate the gym and the cafeteria in the "Hollywood Nights" theme and help the girls with their hair and makeup.
The Pennsylvania students will attend the dance, but only to help out. They won't be wearing formal gowns or jackets and ties.
Cooper said this experience will teach them something they couldn't learn in a classroom.
"It's all trying to put yourselves in someone else's shoes," he said. "This was an inconvenience of joy for them. They're seeing they can make a big, big difference."
Pennsylvania teens bring homecoming to Mississippi coast schools
KATHY HANRAHAN -- Associated Press
JACKSON, Miss. - Some Good Samaritan teenagers from Pennsylvania are helping students at two Mississippi Gulf Coast high schools set aside their Katrina troubles to celebrate homecoming together.
Some 40 students from Lampeter-Strasburg High School in Lancaster, Pa., are arriving on the hurricane-ravaged coast this week with at least $35,000 in donated money and $15,000 in supplies to provide an elaborate gala for Long Beach and Pass Christian high schools.
"It is going to put some pieces of my life back together," said Jayson Gordon, an 18-year-old Long Beach senior who has been longing for some semblance of normality since his house was destroyed in the Aug. 29 storm.
Katrina plowed across Mississippi's 80 miles of shoreline, splintering homes and businesses with 145-mile-an-hour winds and a storm surge that reached 30 feet in some places. Two months after the storm, the landscapes of Long Beach and Pass Christian are still largely unrecognizable, with landmarks missing and centuries-old live oak trees toppled.
Like Gordon, many students at Long Beach are homeless and living in temporary quarters. The Long Beach campus was damaged, but classes have resumed. Pass Christian High School was so heavily damaged that students are having class in portable buildings at a local elementary school.
Homecoming festivities in the past have always been financed by student fundraisers. That wasn't an option this year.
So when the Pennsylvania school adopted Long Beach and asked how their students could help, Susan Whiten, the Long Beach school's principal, suggested hosting a homecoming dance.
And when the Pennsylvania school heard that neighboring Pass Christian High School was also heavily damaged, students decided to adopt that school, too. Pass Christian held its homecoming game last Friday and it is Long Beach's homecoming opponent this Friday.
Students in the Pennsylvania school district have created T-shirts featuring the logos of both schools. They are bringing in a deejay, and the owner of a local grocery store in Pennsylvania has agreed to provide the food. What is normally an event with homemade sandwiches has blossomed into a catered gala with shrimp.
A photographer will provide free pictures. The gym will be decorated in both schools' colors: red and blue for the Pass Christian Pirates and maroon and white for the Long Beach Bearcats.
In three weeks of collecting donations, Lampeter-Strasburg students also secured pricey door prizes that could help replace some items lost in the hurricane, including Playstation 2's, mountain bikes and CD players.
Pennsylvania students also donated about 400 party dresses. Another 100 dresses were sent courtesy of Auburn University's equestrian team.
Sydney Fitzgerald, a 16-year-old junior at Long Beach, was left without a dress after much of her home was washed away. Fitzgerald and a friend searched through the donated dresses to find one that was a little loose, perfect for alterations to be made.
"When I was looking at the dresses, it amazed me at how many people wanted us to get our minds off of this stuff and get on with a regular school year," Fitzgerald said.
Gordon said his homecoming date also lost everything in the storm. She plans to search through the dresses to find the right one, but Gordon said: "I have no idea what to wear."
Posted on Tue, Nov. 01, 2005