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Hurricane Ida and the Advantage Educator who Helped

Allysia Gibson, eighth-grade English language arts teacher at Advantage Charter Academy (ACA), recalls getting out of school one memorable day in August with familiar hurricane warnings about how to prepare, what precautions to take, and other reminders that come with living in Louisiana.
 
“You really become very numb to the warnings,” said Mrs. Gibson. “It can get expensive simply getting prepared. Stocking up on food items, especially items that do not require power to prepare, gassing up the cars, making sure that candles, batteries, and flashlights are on hand can get pricey.”
 
This time, Louisiana was preparing for Hurricane Ida.
 
According to the National Weather Service, Hurricane Ida made landfall in southeast Louisiana on Aug. 29 as a Category 4 hurricane. This happened to fall on the 16th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the Category 5 hurricane that shook New Orleans in 2005. 
 
Mrs. Gibson has three adult children, one at Louisiana State University, where students were asked to leave campus if they could. Her daughter came home.
 
Mrs. Gibson was grateful to not lose power, but her mother and children did. So did many of her students and fellow teachers. “Cellular service was out so we waited to hear from anyone,” she said. “While fixing breakfast, my mom pulled into the driveway and soon, my children arrived. We cooked, ate, played games, enjoyed the patio, and had a great time.”
 
She kept thinking about families who were losing all the food in their refrigerators because of the power outages, and how not everyone can just run to Walmart to restock. Mrs. Gibson thinks of herself as the mom on campus – someone who always has coffee, snacks, and hand sanitizer. So when teachers and her church community were calling each other saying they didn’t have power, she had an idea.
 
Realizing that not everyone was in the same situation as her family, she decided to partner with others to help feed the community. Mrs. Gibson is part of the National Liturgical Dance Network, is an ordained minister, and leads a dance ministry called W.O.R.S.H.I.P. “And of course, I have the most amazing husband on the planet, Minister Derrick Gibson,” she said. “This was definitely a village event.”
 
Mrs. Gibson and some of her friends had power, so they pooled a few dollars to do something amazing.
 
Friends showed up at her house to cook a spaghetti dinner and then started calling people who might need a hot meal. With one quick run to Sam’s Club on a Saturday morning, Mrs. Gibson and her friends were able to serve 222 meals to families in the community, teachers, and linemen.
 
“Helping is all I know,” she said. “I don't just live here; I am from here...from right here by the school. The school community is my community. The children here at ACA are kids from my backyard. It's our responsibility to make sure that their needs were met.”
 
Mrs. Gibson believes the Advantage middle school team is a family. So when she asked her middle school dean, Mendrek Solite, if he had power and needed a hot meal, he showed up and filled his car with extra meals to deliver 25 boxes to a nursing home, six to coworkers, and some for his family. Inspired, the next day he cooked up a bunch of baked chicken and beans. He continued the giving.
 
“Mrs. Gibson is always willing to help on campus and off campus,” said Mr. Solite. “She always says, ‘Whatever I can do for scholars and my team, I got it!’”
 
Mrs. Gibson shared that many others caught the vision and have been inspired to prepare meals as well. “It’s been such a blessing to watch everyone come together and love on each other,” she said. “Remember, this could be any one of us. We had to help. So much has happened in the past year or so. If we have not learned to love each other, that life is too short, and we need to cherish one another, then we have missed the lesson.”
 
Her students called and texted to make sure she was okay. They were all able to safely return to school on Sept. 8.
 
Keep up the excellent work, Mrs. Gibson!