WALKER -- Wes Partin, principal at Southside Junior High in Denham Springs, couldn’t be found in his office on Thursday, Sept 7.
He wasn’t there on Friday, Sept. 8, either.
Instead, Partin was in the front seat of a Penske truck, picking up flood relief supplies from middle schools all over Livingston Parish before delivering them to Humble, Texas, an area just north of Houston that was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey.
After the year Livingston Parish and its schools went through following the Great Flood of 2016, Partin said it was time to “pay it forward.”
“The reason we’re going down there, more than to bring supplies, is to let them know that we’re here for them,” Partin said. “We went through this last year, and of all the stuff we got, nothing meant more than seeing people come to us and saying, ‘We’re here to help.’
“We want to do that for others.”
Southside Junior High and at least six other middle and junior high schools in Livingston Parish joined forces to collect supplies and monetary donations to aid the recovery efforts in the Humble Independent school district in Texas.
The schools collected the supplies and donations over a two-week span and divided the collection into two phases.
In the first phase, the focus was on providing supplies people would need in order to rebuild their homes and “take care” of themselves, such as bottled water, personal hygiene items, gloves, masks, garbage bags and other contractor-type items.
In the second phase, the focus shifted to providing school supplies for the Humble Independent School District, which is comprised of 43 campuses, more than 40,000 students and 5,000 employees.
And the Livingston Parish students delivered.
Meghann Ringo, a seventh grade ELA teacher at Southside Junior High, watched in amazement as students steadily filled her classroom with all kinds of supplies over the course of two weeks.
Since she was charged with collecting items at Southside, most of the supplies were kept in her classroom until they were all moved to Room 202, where they sat until being loaded into Partin’s Penske truck Thursday afternoon.
For Ringo, it was “surreal” to see her students and their families come together for the same cause, not to mention the level of investment they all displayed in that cause.
But she wasn’t too shocked by it. After all, they had lived through the same experience themselves a little more than a year ago.
“I really think this situation hit home with our students and their families,” Ringo said. “We’ve done things in the past with our students where we’ve tried to help out other areas, but the response that we got from the kids and their families for this particular project was outstanding.
“A lot of our students flooded last year, and even if they didn’t, the school did. They have experienced this kind of devastation themselves, so it really hit home with them and their families. They just pulled it out and did an amazing job.”
While Ringo and other teachers across the parish were hoarding supplies, Partin was busy finding schools in Texas to help. Eventually, he made a connection with Humble Middle School, which he said will serve as a hub for schools in the Humble Independent School District to come get the supplies.
In order to bring as much as possible, Partin reached out to some of his fellow principals to fill them in on his plan and see if they’d be willing to gather their own supplies.
It was unanimous — they were all on board.
“After a flood like the one we had last year, us principals became a family,” Partin said. “It created this partnership between us. So when this happened, it wasn’t a question of if we wanted to help. The question was when would we start.”
On Thursday, after a couple weeks of storing supplies inside classrooms, it was time to load everything up.
Partin made stops at Live Oak Middle, Live Oak Junior High, Denham Springs Junior High, Albany Middle, Springfield Middle, Westside Junior High and North Corbin Junior High to load the supplies in the Penske truck, which was provided by First Baptist Church in Denham Springs.
But Partin had plenty of help storing everything inside the truck as several students at the various schools helped him load it all up.
Early Friday morning, Partin, Denham Springs Junior High principal Bryan Wax and Juban Parc Junior High assistant principal made the near 300-mile trip to Humble Middle School to drop everything off, along with nearly $10,000 that Livingston Parish middle and junior high schools raised on free dress days.
“We know what they’re dealing with,” Partin said. “We lived it. This is our way of paying it forward.”