Students from Hinkley High School help with recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey in Houston on Nov. 27. (Photo provided)

AURORA | Students from Hinkley High School are set to leave the Houston area after spending the past week helping with the massive recovery efforts after Hurricane Harvey devastated the area.

The group of 25 seniors and a few juniors have been in Dickinson, Texas, close to Houston, for the past week helping with everything from tearing out the water damaged insides of homes to putting up drywall. The group is set to head back on a chartered bus after finishing up work on Dec. 1


“I feel like we’re making a huge impact here helping people with homes. The feedback has been very positive. They’re grateful we’re here,” said Oscar Sarabia, 18, a senior at Hinkley. “It’s a whole lot to take in from this experience. We’re helping people in need but the thing we all have to remember is there’s always someone that needs help.”

Nayeli Martinez, 17, is a senior at Hinckley and has spent the past week in Dickinson working on several projects, including helping a local woman begin the process of rebuilding her home. Martinez said working with someone who has lost everything in the flood but was still so positive and grateful to Martinez for her help was a powerful experience she would be taking back with her to Aurora.

“She went through so much, and it really impacted me. It was really heartbreaking and she had such positive motivation to keep going,” Martinez said. “I’m going to take this experience and not keep it to myself. I want to talk to my community and encourage them to continue this. Everyone needs help. We’re all in this country, and we’re all in this together.”

The trip’s genesis oddly enough started in a math class. Betty Lee, a math teacher at Hinkley who’s also down in Texas for the trip, decided to do a lesson plan in her financial algebra class on the extent of the recovery efforts needed to rebuild the Houston area. The students saw just how much time and money would be needed to recover from the storm and that lit a fire in them to do something about it, Lee said.

“They were devastated and heartbroken. They wanted to help,” Lee said.

So the school began raising money for a relief trip. Lee said local businesses in Aurora helped donate money, tools and supplies. Lee also hit up the window installers at the house one day and that sales pitch resulted in a $14,000 donation from Renewal by Andersen window company which helped pay for half the cost of the charter bus.

While the students had seen pictures of the damage in the news, being face to face with just how much was destroyed was a shock to everyone in the trip, said Benjamin Aldana, 18, a senior.

“Honestly it was a lot scarier than I expected,” Aldana said. “On the Internet you only get a brief summary of what happened. but in person you see the totality of it. People have lost everything.”