Learning through service: Students rally together to participate in flood relief efforts

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Learning through service: Students rally together to participate in flood relief efforts

A pile of sandbags sits ready to combat the flooded streets of Davenport.

A pile of sandbags sits ready to combat the flooded streets of Davenport.

Trevor Glaum

A pile of sandbags sits ready to combat the flooded streets of Davenport.

Trevor Glaum

Trevor Glaum

A pile of sandbags sits ready to combat the flooded streets of Davenport.

Sarah Danielson, Copy Editor

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With the flooding of the Mississippi River reaching an all-time high in the Quad Cities, families and businesses affected by the Mississippi’s rising waters have been in desperate need of relief.

So, in order to help provide some of this relief, many Pleasant Valley students took time out of their school day to help out the community through sandbagging on May 3.

District superintendent Jim Spelhaug first heard about this community-helping opportunity at an unexpected place: his daughter’s softball game. It was there that he got a call informing him of the real need for sandbagging in the Quad Cities.

After this call, Spelhaug explained what the district did to begin preparations to provide help. “Historically, when there have been floods of significance, we have made available students during the day who want to volunteer,” he said.

Spelhaug discussed the district’s mindset behind this typically abnormal decision. “This was a fairly extraordinary circumstance, but it was for a good cause. The need of the community was acute enough to merit this,” he said.

The district was fast in beginning preparations for the endeavor, and PV students were equally quick in their response to the call for help. All the teams were filled up within the day, and thousands of sandbags were made where PV students were working.

PV senior Shannon Mullen was one of the students who participated in the sandbagging aid. She described her experience in detail. “It was a pretty organized experience. My group and I were simply taken to the city hall annex building, were quickly taught how to fill sandbags in an assembly line fashion, and then filled sandbags,” she said.

Not only was the experience beneficial for the community, but it also was personally edifying for Mullen. “I learned how badly the community needed sandbags and that with the help of a few people, a lot of progress was made to make them,” Mullen said.

Trevor Glaum
Two Quad City community members drive around putting down sandbags.

Spelhaug emphasized that this flood was more than just Bettendorf-centric; the community need was profound. For this reason, school rivalries were put aside for the day, as a team from Bettendorf High School came to help out as well. The community’s rivalries seemed trivial in light of the devastating flooding.   

Spelhaug believes this show of support emphasizes just how much a spirit of service is ingrained within students. “I’m always proud of our students. It’s part of [PV’s] cultural expectation to want to do well for ourselves but also to do well for others.”

Mullen exemplified Spelhaug’s beliefs regarding students’ spirits of service in her explanation of why she wanted to help. “I decided to do it because I knew it would only bring good and that it was worth missing 90 minutes of class time.”

She expanded on her thoughts, relating them to the entirety of the student population. “People are always willing to help if given the opportunity to. This experience made it very easy to help, so people took advantage of that.”

Overall, Spelhaug believes that PV’s foundation of service learning played a large role in the student’s overwhelming desire to help and hopes this foundation leads to great character later on in life as well. “I hope [this experience] signals that roots of community-mindedness are running deep as students walk across our stage to receive their diploma.”

Mullen summed up her beliefs on service and why she believes it is so important to help others within the community. “People find themselves in unfortunate situations all of the time, and sometimes it’s near impossible to get through them without a little help. We have to rely on others to be able to help us in these times in order to move forward.”

Regarding future scenarios, she urged people to have a spirit of empathy when deciding whether to help or not. “It’s important to help others and the community because if we were ever the ones affected by an unfortunate situation, we would hope we would receive help too. We, as a society, have to be there for each other in order to always be moving in the right direction.”

As flooding continues to pose a problem to those in the Quad Cities, it is important to remember this sentiment and think of the fellow members of the QC community.