Two Texas elementary schools with the same name might be about 200 miles apart, but students and staff at Robinson Elementary School in Houston and Robinson Elementary School in Robinson are finding out they have more in common than just a school name.
Local Robinson students are raising money through Friday to help rebuild a welcoming school atmosphere for the 631 Houston Robinson students whose school was flooded in Hurricane Harvey’s record-breaking rains.
The damage displaced students and staff to two temporary campuses and delayed the start of the school year from Aug. 25 to Sept. 14, said U’Nika Harrell, assistant principal of Houston Independent School District’s Robinson Elementary School.
“It was extensive. I’m not sure when we’ll be back. Basically, our facilities manager has condemned the building,” Harrell said. “We weren’t allowed to take anything from the building — not a paper clip or a stapler, the small things you take for granted. When we came to these schools, we came with our personalities and our hope.”
To encourage donations, local Robinson Elementary School Principal Kati Dietzman allowed her students to duct tape her to a gym wall Wednesday.
Each student who participated got a foot of duct tape for every dollar donated, and the event brought in $570. Students had already donated $200 Tuesday, and the school had raised $842.50 total by Thursday afternoon, with a goal to get to $1,000 by Friday.
The campaign, which Harrell has dubbed “Robinson Helping Robinson,” came about after administrators realized they had a mutual connection shortly after the hurricane hit.
“It’s a very poverty-stricken area, so these kids are already up against a lot,” Dietzman said. “We hated for them to go back to empty classrooms.”
Robinson ISD parent Jennifer Rogers works for Scholastic Book Fairs and has known Harrell through that role for the past two years, she said.
Rogers sent an email to officials she works with at schools affected by the hurricane to see how she could help. Harrell responded with what Rogers called the most devastating email out of all the replies.
“Children were being lifted off the roofs of the apartments next to the school,” she said. “The emails just kept coming in. I was feeling so heartbroken. There was really nothing we could do.”
Then Dietzman posted on social media that the local Robinson Elementary was looking for a way to help with relief efforts. And when Rogers learned Harrell’s son studies biochemistry and is on the Baylor University football and track teams, she chimed in, she said. The effort rolled on from there, Rogers said.
“There is just so much heartache in that area right now,” Rogers said. “I would love to go to them and say, ‘Can we bless your school?’ (Harrell) started crying and was so excited. The similarities are amazing between the two campuses. We’re the Robinson Rockets, and they’re the Robinson Raptors. … Even with just our connection with book fairs, we had all these other connections and it was so cool.”
The connection also includes what the Houston campus changed its motto to shortly after Hurricane Harvey passed, Rogers said. The motto, “Wherever we are, we are Robinson,” represents how their community remained connected despite families and staff displaced everywhere after the storm, Harrell said.
Rogers helped coordinate the fundraiser by finding out what exactly Harrell’s school needs. Someone had already stepped into to give school supplies to students, but Harrell also realized the hurricane hit just after teachers finished setting up classrooms for the new year, Rogers said.
“These are teachers who had just spent the last of their paycheck getting decorations for their classroom,” Rogers said. “Everything was wiped out.”
Harrell will be in town Saturday to collect the donations before Baylor’s football game, she said. Harrell has only spoken to Rogers by phone and email, and she’s looking forward to meeting the community helping rebuild her own, she said.
The local Robinson Elementary is also accepting Amazon and Mardel Christian bookstore gift cards. To donate, visit the Robinson Elementary front office by the end of the day Friday at 151 Peplow Dr.
“There are no words to express this. Of course, I would say thank you, but that seems like such a tiny little thing for something so great,” Harrell said. “I’ll probably give hugs. And to see that that kids contributed to that, and we’ve never met them, it’s amazing. It seems unreal.”