Learning center students, teachers honored

Published 10:23 am Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Austin Area Learning Center is being honored today for collecting and distributing school supplies to a hurricane-ravaged elementary school in Louisiana.

The Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs has awarded the Austin ALC their Special Program Initiative of the year for 2008-09. ALC teachers Derik Gustafson and Shirley Morgan were recognized today at a state banquet.  ALC staff nominated the project for the award this year.

Last fall, ALC students collected more than 1,000 pounds of school supplies for the Romeville Elementary School in Covent, La. that had been severely impacted by Hurricane Gustav.  Romeville is a school of extreme poverty.  This gift of supplies allowed their students to return to school with materials for learning they needed.

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“The program initiated basically at the beginning of the school year,” said assistant principal Jason Senne. “We were looking for a service project.”

Their goal was to collect 50 pounds per Connect room.

“We went way beyond what our goal was,” Senne said.

Students brought supplies from home and some even pitched in themselves to buy paper, folders, gym equipment and other materials.

The Austin post office contributed $400 worth of shipping materials, and Richard Knowlton donated $500 as well.

“Without those two donations this would have been a very difficult project to complete,” Senne said.

The students sent the supplies to Louisiana with former ALC teacher Carla Anderson-Diekmann during the MEA break in October.

Romeville principal Becky Louque showed her overwhelming appreciation for the donation.

“Have you ever seen the movie ‘Pay it Forward?’ It turns one act of kindness into three acts,” she said. “The old saying, ‘What goes around comes around’ applies … you guys did something extremely  powerful for a school that was about to loose all hope. RES was (is) fighting to keep the school in the district (not state take over). Then, a hurricane hits and destroys half of the school. The faculty and staff was fighting for a sense of hope and reassurance. The gift you brought was not just tangible.  It was from the heart — and it hit there. It made everyone realize that we are fighting for a purpose and it is worth fighting for.

“Thanks for giving the hope and purpose back … enjoy the award … you truly deserve it,” Louque said.

Senne said the ALC would like to do another service project next fall, possibly even helping out their Louisiana school again.

“It is something special this year, but it is something we want to continue doing,” he said. “I think they took a lot more away from it other than donating supplies — they really made a difference.”