Sophomore Angelique Parker has spent the opening days of the fall semester anxiously watching news reports and receiving videos of her family trudging through knee-deep water.
Parker, a criminal justice major from Houston, has watched from afar this week as unprecedented flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey devastated her home city and inundated her neighborhood, flooding the area near her house but not reaching her door. For Parker, the uncertainty about the extent of the damage in her hometown is the most difficult part of being away.
“You read the news reports and you see what’s happening, but unless you know people there, it’s hard to understand how it feels,” she said. “The hardest part is not knowing.”
Students from the Houston area said it has been an agonizing couple of days worrying about loved ones as they start the academic year with a natural disaster unfolding in their backyard. As the deluge continued, officials urged affected students to seek help from University services if they need it, and the Student Association said it would raise funds to help the storm’s victims.
The slow-moving tropical storm has pounded southeast Texas with days of unrelenting rain. The floods have left much of the Houston and the surrounding areas underwater as tens of thousands have needed rescue.
The Division of Student Affairs encouraged the University’s roughly 100 Houston-area students to seek help from Mental Health Services, the Office of Student Support and Family Engagement or their resident advisers, according to a University release earlier this week. Students concerned about their peers can also submit CARE reports connecting students to a range of support services.
Since the storm hit, Parker said she has been in constant contact with her mom and her sister, who have faced long lines for supplies since the storm’s arrival. She said she is worried about her friends in other areas of Texas, many of whom have been forced to evacuate due to the extreme flooding.
“It’s hard being here but easier knowing they are in a better place,” she said. “Compared to a lot of people in Texas who have crazy flooding and their homes are gone.”
The SA partnered with the Division of Student Affairs and Center for Student Engagement to lead a fundraising campaign for the victims of the natural disaster. As part of the campaign – known as GW Responds – students from the SA and Class Council collected donations in front of Lisner Auditorium during the Student Performance Showcase Wednesday night and several student groups – including GW College Republicans, GW College Democrats and GW Red Cross – will host a fundraising event in Kogan Plaza Thursday.
The money will go to the Ron Howard Student Assistance Fund, which supports students who have emergency or other financial needs that cannot be met through traditional financial aid, according to an email from the SA sent to students. Storm victims can apply for aid from the fund.
“Hundreds of students at our University are originally from Houston, and I have heard from students whose friends and families back home are dealing with horrific damage,” Sen. Joe Vogel, U-at-large, who helped coordinate the fundraising effort, said. “It is critical that members of the GW community affected by Hurricane Harvey feel that they are being supported in this time of need.”
Men’s basketball coach Maurice Joseph – answering a call for help from his counterpart at the University of Houston – pledged on Twitter Tuesday to send 20 T-shirts and 10 pairs of sneakers to storm victims on behalf of the program.
The women’s basketball program made a similar donation, according to a tweet from Christina Richardson, the program’s director of operations.
Kashti Khan, a junior majoring in business who has lived in Houston for nearly 20 years, recently transferred from San Jacinto College in Houston to GW to start this academic year. Her first weekend at GW went much differently than she expected, she said.
The floodwaters did not reach her house, but her neighborhood is flooded and the trees in her backyard that she used to sit beneath as a child are gone, she said. Khan’s aunt decided to remain in Houston and live on the second floor of her flooded home, while her uncle and his children went to Iowa to escape the storm.
“The people of Texas have so much heart,” she said. “They’re going to get through it.”
Mitchell Santos, a sophomore in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences from Houston, said students should pitch in to help those in the storm’s path, especially by collecting supplies in high-demand in the flood zone.
“Students don’t know how much they could help, even if it’s just a pair of shoes or some food,” he said. “People are really in the need for supplies, like baby formula and diapers.”
Santos said his home is not flooded and has not lost power, but he is concerned about people living in low-income, minority communities of the city.
“It’s going to take a while to get rebuilt,” he said. “It’s hard watching the news and seeing the destruction in my city.”
Meredith Roaten contributed reporting.