Six months after Hurricane Harvey impacted 150 Sterling High School students and their families, many of them are still living in hotels. The Communities In Schools of Houston student support specialist on campus, Alma Gutierrez, LMSW, has been on the front lines, helping these families in their continued recovery.
Sterling families who still can’t return to their homes were not anticipating such a long recuperation process. But since the storm first hit, Gutierrez has been helping students and their families get through the crisis.
Gutierrez meets regularly with students impacted by the storm, many with fear, anxiety, insecurity and uncertainty who may not even be aware of it. “They don’t know what to expect. They don’t know what might happen tomorrow,” she said. “So they come to me, and they just vent. They talk about what life in a hotel is like and what’s happening with their families.”
And talking helps. In his first year of high school as Harvey struck and destroyed everything his family owned, one freshman reached out to Gutierrez at a time when he felt most vulnerable. He now meets regularly with Gutierrez and talks through his fears and frustrations. Gutierrez worked with his family to establish a routine creating a sense of predictable stability in the midst of transition and upheaval. The student and his family still live in a hotel, but he now has structure and feels like he has a place to belong. He feels safe.
Gutierrez encourages students like this freshman to keep working on their studies and their future in spite of whatever storms life or nature may throw at them. She urges them to apply for internships, like the CIS Nursing Internship Program in partnership with Houston Methodist and St. Luke’s Hospitals, the CIS Legal Internship in partnership with the Houston Bar Association, or the CIS Apartment Management and Maintenance Internship in partnership with Judwin Properties. Gutierrez pushes students to work for their futures while supporting their needs in the present as part of HISD’s mission to equitably educate the whole child so that every student graduates with the tools to reach their full potential.