Community Helps Students Get Back to Class After a Tornado Destroys Their School

When a devastating tornado struck Henryville, Indiana, the town’s only school was destroyed along with many homes and businesses. While many community members were unsure about what to do next, the children, teachers, and parents were asking when they could return to school.

“I made contact with parents and within a week had made it to every house to personally see each student and give them a hug,” said teacher, Dawn Daniel. “It took some time for it to set in, and then I realized I had lost 10 years of classroom material.”

Daniel knew she had to stay strong during this devastating time, not only for her 25 students but also for her two young daughters who were present in the school when the tornado hit.

“I was at the school in a closet. I was there with my two daughters,” said Daniel. “I had two pillows over them and I was laying over that. My heart was racing, but I wasn’t really scared. All I can remember is knowing I needed to stay calm for them.”

With emotions running high and debris from the storm all around, getting everything under control and back in order can be a daunting task. Daniel, along with several teachers, lost years’ worth of school supplies and had the challenge of rebuilding with limited resources. Thankfully, Daniel and other Henryville teachers were able to turn to DonorsChoose.org for assistance.

DonorsChoose.org is an organization that helps schools and classrooms get the materials they need. State Farm partners with DonorsChoose.org to help schools impacted by storms and catastrophes recover from these often devastating events.

It is a simple process for public school teachers to post classroom project requests. Once the requests are on the site, anyone can donate to help fund the project. After a project is completely funded, the materials are shipped to the school directly. Since the tornado, State Farm and DonorsChoose.org have had the opportunity to support 34 teachers and classrooms in Henryville, including Daniel.

“I have a personal connection with State Farm. My dad, Don Compton, has been a State Farm agent for 30 years,” said Daniel. “Dad held a session to help teachers get started on creating projects that would be funded through DonorsChoose.org. He worked many hours to help the teachers of Henryville.”

Along with supporting 34 teachers, State Farm and DonorsChoose.org have donated more than $40,000 to the school to help fund 71 projects and impact the lives of 1,295 students in Henryville’s elementary, junior, and senior high schools combined. About a month after the tornado, all students were able to return to school in a temporary location. The projects have been a great learning experience for the children, and the teachers were able to capture these memories for parents and community members to see.

Through these donations, Henryville’s residents have been able to come together to rebuild their community. The teachers were able to give back to the children the learning resources that were suddenly taken away from them, and parents are relieved that their children can continue with their education. Recovering from the unexpected can take time and patience, but the relationships built throughout that recovery process will never be forgotten.

[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in Changing the Game: How Business Innovations Reduce the Impact of Disasters.]