Remember a few weeks ago?

The news reported: “They” are coming. “They” appeared on the doorsteps of Texas. “They” were without homes, jobs, or precious possessions…and many without friends, family or hope.

How would our community respond?

We were just getting comfortably settled into our school year. RISD did not “need” more students, especially students and families with extra needs.

We faced the mirror and found our true selves. The unexpected and unbelievable became, in education terms, a “teachable moment.” I knew that our communities would welcome these students and families, but I wondered whether we would do more…would we embrace them?

One of our stated RISD core beliefs is that “public education is vital to a democratic society.” Our neighborhood schools breathed life into that belief and reached out to Americans of all ages.

“They” faded to “us.” Katrina’s Kids became OUR kids. RISD staff, parents, students and volunteers accepted Katrina’s Kids and their families as if we had been together for years.

Yes, we donated life’s necessities – food, clothing, and shelter. More importantly, our community – you – went beyond “stuff.” You showered Katrina’s Kids with hugs, smiles, encouragement, friendship, empathy, compassion, love and hope.

We did not concern ourselves with whether or not these new students would be with us for a few days or might become permanent residents. We saw needs, and we addressed them. That prompt and caring response to those in need exemplifies our RISD community.

I am not surprised by your loving response to Katrina’s Kids, but I surely am proud.

Now, our challenge is to extend that same attitude and action to ALL kids. The Texas state line was not a barrier to Katrina’s Kids. However, some barriers such as race, income and housing still exist and too often divide communities and schools. As you have reached out to our newest students, I call for you to reach out to other students and families. Let’s open our hearts to others each day as if it is the first day after a disaster.

Again, I implore you to become involved with our neighborhood schools. I guarantee that you will make a positive difference in the life of a child, likely several children – and that difference will impact a family…and that family will impact our community.

It is easy to lump kids into statistics and labels. Remember, however, that all of our kids are LIVES and that they need you.

Thanks for your efforts with Katrina’s Kids…now let’s focus on ALL of our kids.

See you at school.