Sarah Howell

MSC Freshman Leadership International and the Las Americas Newcomer School will collaborate this month to aid refugee students through a collection drive.

Las Americas is an alternative middle school in Houston that focuses on kids who have significantly interrupted formal education, with trauma, mental health and academic needs. MSC FLI’s SHARES project — Students Helping Aid Refugees through Education and Service — is a service initiative that collects hygiene products, cleaning supplies, clothing and other items that are donated by Aggies to benefit students at the school.

The donation drive begins Monday, Nov. 11 and ends on Dec. 6, followed by a service project at the middle school on Dec. 7. Students can find the donation boxes at several on-campus locations, with a full list available on the MSC FLI website.

Sarah Howell, a social worker at Las Americas Newcomer School, said the school’s philosophy is based on upholding a holistic approach to education and providing comprehensive services. Since the kids only stay at the middle school for a year, the goal is to provide them with as many resources as possible for success, Howell said.

“Our newcomer kids need a lot of support, but they have so much more to offer,” Howell said. “It’s an investment. The kids I work with want to be here more than I knew I wanted to be here. They fought to come, they’re fighting to stay, they’re doing whatever they can to better themselves.”

Howell said she wanted to go into policy when she was an international relations student at Texas A&M but wanted to get experience on the ground first so she could understand the group she would be writing policy for.

“It’s made me so much stronger and it’s hard work, but it makes me so happy because it’s made me grateful for what I have,” Howell said. “I took so much for granted. But also like the kids, the families, they’re so incredible. They teach me far more than I could wish to teach them.”

SHARES is a collaboration between MSC FLI and Las Americas Newcomer School that came about after Hurricane Harvey, when the school was searching for support for the service program, Howell said. MSC organizations are important and special because they can perform at a high level, she said.

Rhonda Collins is the program adviser to both MSC FLI and the International Students Association, working with student programming, risk and financial management. Collins said MSC FLI helps increase cultural awareness on campus and gives the students involved an opportunity to develop leadership skills. The SHARES program is a great opportunity for the community to support the well-being of kids and families, Collins said.

“The students in the past have said that they get more out of that day of service because they learn so much about the students they are serving,” Collins said. “They often interact with the kids, and it’s an opportunity to gain things as well as provide that service.”

Chemical engineering sophomore Carolina Kane is the executive director of Latitude, the MSC FLI sub committee in charge of SHARES. Kane said Latitude has initiated a donations competition among A&M Freshman Leadership Organizations to increase participation. Another new aspect that Latitude is implementing is the opportunity for students to write greeting cards to the students and families from the middle school. Kane said she likes seeing the direct impact of her service and knowing that she’s providing the kids with what they need.

“I definitely have just learned a lot through this organization and specifically through this program,” Kane said. “It’s definitely opened my mind to the impact we might have to the people that need our help.”

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