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State High students organize relief effort for school district flooded by Florence

by and on October 04, 2018 1:52 PM

STATE COLLEGE — Several State College Area High School student groups have joined together to organize Operation Sunshine, a relief effort for a North Carolina school district hit hard by Hurricane Florence.

Public Schools of Robeson County district was still recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew two years ago when Florence stuck this month. Its schools remain closed after record rainfall caused widespread flooding.

With adviser and social studies teacher Andy Merritt, State High’s National Honor Society, Key Club, Interact Club, journalism program and student government have banded together to coordinate the collection of school supplies, toys, books, puzzles, personal care items and clothes for the Robeson County schools. Student leaders are gathering contributions from collection points set up at the high school, Delta Program and other State College Area schools.

Students also are writing "Rays of Sunshine" messages of encouragement for students in Robeson County.

“I'm extremely honored to be a part of an event that can instantly impact the lives of many in need,” said State High senior Baron Cao, one of the organizers. “Frankly, it's the empathy, kindness and the willingness to help others component that makes us all human. As Mr. Merritt would always say: You help someone, you help everyone.”

Students plan to finish collections next week then begin delivery of the items and messages to Robeson County, which has 23,000 students and hundreds of faculty and staff.

Senior Helena Haynes, another organizer, said Meritt brought the student groups together shortly after Florence hit and they quickly formed a plan.

“We decided to name our plan ‘Operation Sunshine’ because we want to bring light back into the lives of these hurricane victims,” she said. “In the first moments of planning this operation, I could not stop thinking to myself how amazing the determination and excitement surrounding the project was. We all wanted to help, no questions asked.”

Haynes said the school district community has been eager to contribute and she hopes that continues throughout the drive. Cao added that families and businesses also have pitched in.

“This is the ray of positivity that is so contagious; this is the table of optimism that we all want for our community,” Cao said. “Without these generous contributions from all the individuals involved, this operation would have never taken off, because every single donation and contribution has helped greatly.”

Community members who wish to donate can contact Merritt at [email protected].


This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Geoff Rushton,
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