Aid to Amish partly thanks for their help after Katrina

Published 8:06 pm Tuesday, October 10, 2006

It’s official now. Donations are being accepted in Picayune and the surrounding area to be sent as assistance with medical bills for the children shot in the attack on an Amish school in Nickel Mines, Penn.

Kasey Mitchell, a senior at Picayune Memorial High School, is heading up the effort as her senior project. The goal is to raise at least $10,000 to help defray the medical expenses for the 10 Amish girls shot Monday a week ago by a mad man. Five of the 10 girls have died and a sixth is expected to die.

Earlier this Monday, before action by the Picayune City Council made Mitchell’s proposal official another school had a tragedy, but it was mostly averted this time. In Missouri, a student came to school with an assault rifle. He begged school administrators to not make him do the deed, then fired a shot into the ceiling before the gun jammed. An administrator talked the youth into leaving the building and alerted the police to his presence. He was later taken into custody.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

This incident ended without any tragedy except for the child and his family. For whatever reason, the youngster apparently was having second thoughts when he confronted other students and the administrators in the school. That was very fortunate. Still, now the parents must deal with an unstable child and get him the help he obviously needs even as he cycles through the criminal justice system. They also must face the embarrassment brought on to families when a incident such as this happens.

Late yesterday, another incident involving a student occurred, but this was one of the good ones that makes parents and a community proud. Kasey Mitchell, after talking with Mayor Greg Mitchell and other city officials on Friday about her proposal to raise money to help the Amish, yesterday appeared at a specially called session of the Picayune City Council to formally present her project to the council and ask for its support, which she promptly received.

Kasey Mitchell was asking the council to support her effort by establishing a special city bank account where donations to be passed on to the Nickel Mines Children’s Fund at Coatesville Bank in Paradise, Penn., can be collected. Mitchell needed a letter signed by the mayor to go to local businesses from which she hopes to collect donations. She also was asking the city to approve a boot drive proposed by Picayune Fire Chief Keith Brown in support of her effort to raise the money.

This fund raising project probably would be taking place here even without these senior projects that PMHS embarked on a couple of years ago as a means of helping seniors learn the process of planning projects, formally proposing them and following through to accomplish them. After all, the Amish came to us in our time of need following Hurricane Katrina and provided a tremendous amount of help.

However, it certainly is great that such an umbrella was in place to help get the effort going and to make it the project of one student helping the families of other students who have been so terribly devastated.

These senior projects have served many purposes in the years since they were begun. Some of the projects have been charitable, or otherwise community oriented, such as this one. More such efforts probably will follow this one in years to come.

The most important aspect of the projects, both charitable and otherwise, are the lessons the seniors learn in doing them. The projects certainly appear to live up to the original goal stated for them, which is to teach students how generate a workable proposal, research it and follow through. These are skills the students will need as they enter college and the work place.

They are also life skills, especially the charitable and community-oriented projects. As you look around Picayune and the county, you will see those things that benefit a community but which are not part of government services, such as the youth athletic associations, Picayune On Stage, the Christmas parade, the local Mardi Gras parade, the service projects of all the local clubs. Those all began as proposals put forth by people who have a passion for such things, people who also somewhere along the way learned how to organize and put together the projects, but probably sometime after they left high school.

That’s what all these high school seniors such as Kasey Mitchell are learning to do.

Think on this. After learning these skills at such a early age, what benefits will Picayune, and other communities these students settle in, reap from the lessons they have learned in high school?

I personally think we are on the verge of a renaissance of community activism, good community activism, the kind that really brings communities together.

Sure, not all of the seniors will go forth to be community activists and propose projects and organizations to benefit their community, but I strongly suspect much more of that will happen than that which may have occurred without these lessons learned in high school.

Support Kasey Mitchell in her project, because it is a worthy one. Also, it helps reinforce the lessons that the school is trying to teach, and that is carefully planning and researching projects, then following through on them, are lessons that will serve a person throughout their life, even after they have forgotten some of what they learned in math, history, science and other more traditional subjects.