These North Carolina Advisers Learned How to Guide Students After a Natural Distaster

It had been weeks since North Carolina State University adviser Kaitlyn Godfrey had seen her students.

Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina on Sept. 13. Wallace-Rose Hill High School, where Kaitlyn serves in Duplin County, eastern North Carolina, was flooded — as were many of the neighborhoods throughout eastern North Carolina.

“It was terrifying,” she said. “You see the areas that you drive to every single day being publicized on the national news. I don’t know if my kids lost their homes. I don’t know if my kids lost their lives.”

Kaitlyn wasn’t sure when to reach out to her students. And she wasn’t sure how to talk to them about college when they may be facing bigger things, like homelessness or losing family members.

Hevvon Barnes felt the same thing. Hevvon, also an N.C. State adviser, serves at North Moore High School in Moore County, North Carolina. She and her students were out of school for about two weeks because of the hurricane.

“At my school, they’re looking at it as a new school year,” she said.

So Hevvon started over, too.

“I’ve had the conversation with students about rebuilding … just explaining to them that you have to find some sort of hope to hold onto that keeps you moving forward,” she said. “For some students, that has been getting back into routine and talking about college. For others, they’ve had to completely rework the conversation about college or what they want.”

The hurricane’s effects have also meant these advisers are serving their students in a different way. Maria Martinez, another N.C. State adviser, serves at Heide Trask High School in Pender County, North Carolina. Maria has served as a Spanish translator for her school as leaders work to connect with the students.

“We were going to do a pick-up site” for families in need, she said. “I was calling the Spanish-speaking families, asking them for sizes of their clothing, if they needed help with anything — all those things not pertaining to college. [We were] just trying to make sure they had their basic needs and any resources they needed.”

These N.C. State advisers were hired to help their students prepare for and enroll in college. But when their students’ priorities shifted, the advisers gracefully shifted, too.

“We’re in a position where we can only do so much with college,” Kaitlyn said. “But maybe we can help connect them with certain resources or just make sure their well-being is being taken care of.”

Photo via the North Carolina Air National Guard