WALLACE  — Fifth grade students work on their art pieces that will be sold at First Friday in October. (Herald Photo / Jenn Goad)
WALLACE — Fifth grade students work on their art pieces that will be sold at First Friday in October. (Herald Photo / Jenn Goad)
by Jenn Goad

Following the devastating hurricanes that struck Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean, fifth grade students in Rosalie Fidanze’s class at Wallace Elementary School of Integrated Arts are stepping up to help those in need.

“I am very, very scared of storms, and there are hundreds of kids just like me. I wanted them to have a normal life and not constantly knowing and being reminded of that storm. Every child deserves an appropriate education, and it’s going to be hard to get that when everything is demolished,” said Mailee Pearl Sewell.

Sewell was touched by the devastation Hurricane Harvey bestowed on the state of Texas. The category four hurricane dumped 39.72 inches of rain on southeast Texas over the course of five days. In comparison, Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston sees an average of 49.76 inches of rain over the course of a year. The state was hit by winds around 130 miles per hour when Harvey made landfall.

She penned a letter to her principal, Charley Hinkle, to ask if the students could host a food drive to help those affected by the massive storm. Before she delivered the letter, she approached classmates Samantha McClelland and Aviannah Pollard to join her in leading the drive.

“At recess, she asked us if we would help her, and we said, ‘Sure,’” said McClelland. “We took the letter into Mr. Hinkle.”

Sewell said the original idea was a food drive, but after meeting with Hinkle, the idea turned into a opportunity to adopt a classroom so the students could directly help other students. Hinkle also discussed with the girls that while they felt the urgency to help right away, the residents of Texas would need help in the coming months while they clean up the damage.

“Mr. Hinkle said they would probably need other things, too, so it became about helping schools get what they need,” said Sewell.

Pollard’s mother helped the girls find a classroom to adopt through a website called Adopt a Classroom, and a connection was formed with Northside High School in Houston, Texas. The girls hope to find a school in Florida and also in St. Thomas, the gateway island to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“The island got hit pretty hard. We don’t have a school there yet, but it’s somewhere we know we want to help,” Sewell said.

The girls decided in order to raise the funds they set a goal for, they would have each student at Wallace create a piece of art that could be sold. The school had been invited to perform their signature rendition of Michael Jackson’s Thriller at First Friday on Oct. 6, so they decided to take the opportunity to use that time to sell their art.

“The money that we raise, we are going to buy school supplies and things they need on Amazon and ship it right to them in Texas,” McClelland said. “Each class is going to do a bigger piece of art, and then we’re going to silent auction it on First Friday.”

Each student is to create a piece of art of their choosing. In the girls’ class, they are using symbolism to create their pieces.

“Things that might show peace, happiness, comfort, unity, community, things like that [are what we are doing],” said Sewell. 

McClelland created a beach scene that shows two girls spelling out the word “love” with their hands. Pollard’s artwork reads, “God loves you.” Both used bright, inviting colors for their work. Sewell created two pieces so far. One is a sunset on the ocean with pastel colors. Her other piece, her first, depicts a lone sprout growing from a dark ground. 

“I did a dark ground and started out with a dark sky, and it got lighter. It has a green sprout coming out of the dark ground,” she said. “It means that even though there is dark right now, something good will come out of it. Everything will be back. Happiness will return.”

The goal is to raise $1,500 to purchase the supplies they want to send down to Texas. They were told the classroom needs school supplies and other items, including snacks.

“Food is very limited right now,” said Sewell.

The artwork created by the students at Wallace will be available for purchase at First Friday, which takes place in downtown Kokomo, for $5 each. The larger classroom pieces will be auctioned off during the evening.

“We are going to try to help as much as we can with other natural disasters that come. Hurricane Jose, we know it’s not supposed to make landfall, but if it does, we’ll be there to help. Really, we just want to help people,” Sewell said. “It means a great deal to us to make sure that people get back to the life they deserve.”