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New London students help hurricane-damaged school

Siblings’ former school hit by Florence in North Carolina

By Scott Bellile

More than 1,100 miles separate siblings Emma Ali-Cliburn and Nikolas Cliburn from their old elementary school, but they continue to care about their former teachers and friends whose lives were upended by Hurricane Florence.

“[I was] scared because some of my friends that went to my school there, they didn’t realize they were going to get a hurricane that fast,” second-grader Nikolas said.

Fourth-grader Emma added, “I was very scared because I was wondering if my old house was going to be destroyed, if everything that I had memories with would get destroyed.”

The two now attend Lincoln Elementary School in New London. The siblings learned from afar that their old school, Hunters Creek Elementary School in Jacksonville, North Carolina, was damaged by the storm in September.

The two turned to their new classmates for help. Emma and Nikolas’s mother, Melissa Ali, asked Lincoln’s student council adviser, Jennifer Tate, to do some kind of project to help their hometown clean up after Hurricane Florence.

Tate decided an elementary school should collect money for another elementary school. So Lincoln teamed up with Parkview Elementary School and raised $665 for Hunters Creek.

That total impressed Tate.

“I was hoping for like $200 – a hundred each day,” Tate said.

Lincoln and Parkview students raised the $665 in October by holding a two-day event where students could buy a license to chew gum at school for $1.

“I want students to know that what we’re doing is helping others,” Tate said. “Yes, they’re getting to chew gum, but there’s a bigger purpose behind that.”

Hunters Creek Principal Teah Bulris told the Press Star that the school was closed for over a month, from Sept. 11 until Oct. 24.

“Hunters Creek Elementary sustained damages to our buildings due to the impact of Hurricane Florence,” Bulris said in an email. “We have roof damages to the main building that impacts the use of our multi-purpose room/auditorium area as well as three classrooms. We had to replace 450+ ceiling tiles throughout the building. At this time, we are unable to use some of our mobile units due to damages.

“The money that Lincoln Elementary School raised is slated to be used for the replacement of math textbooks, other book needs, and school supplies for students affected by the storm,” Bulris said.

Hunters Creek students study the teachings of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” to develop their leadership abilities. Emma and Nikolas are true leaders by taking initiative to help their peers back home, Bulris said.

“Having Emma and Niko continue to use their leadership abilities in order to help out their [Hunters Creek Elementary] family is so heartwarming to see and as a principal, it makes me very proud to see them continue with the message that everyone is a leader,” Bulris said.

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