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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Noah DeBonis donated a dictionary and “Brain Quest” trivia cards he’s had since third grade.

Kristina Overton gave one of her favorite Harry Potter books, a lunch box and some stencils.

Amid applying to colleges, planning for prom and graduation, the Edgren High School seniors are taking time to help Gulf Coast students who lost everything, including basic school supplies and in some cases even their schools, in Hurricane Katrina.

The senior class and their sponsor, English teacher Laurie Kuntz, are working with two Louisiana educators to collect school materials for students displaced by the hurricane.

An Edgren teacher e-mailed Kuntz a letter posted on the Internet Sept. 7 from Brenda Nixon of Louisiana State University and Jean May-Brett of the Louisiana Department of Education. It was in response to the many inquiries they’d received on how to help schools and students affected by the tragedy.

“They have literally lost almost all of their possessions,” they wrote. “It’s frightening for them and anything that can be done will help.”

“Since I’m the sponsor for the senior class,” Kuntz said, “I thought it would be a really worthwhile project for the senior class to undertake. They are trying to disseminate school materials to displaced kids, to schools that are rebuilding and to teachers who have nothing in their classrooms anymore.”

She corresponded with the Louisiana educators several times to learn what supplies are needed most. “They need book bags or backpacks, notebooks, paper, pens, rulers, calculators, folders, loose leafs, dictionaries … anything you carry in a backpack that we just take for granted.”

The materials can be new or used, she said.

“One of my classes,” Kuntz said, “[was] so inspired when I told them about this that they opened their backpacks and took all their new supplies out and donated them. They said, ‘We’ll just buy new ones.’”

DeBonis and Overton are helping spread the word about the senior class project. DeBonis penned a recent editorial for the school newspaper comparing students to soldiers and the things they carry: “Soldiers carry bags of ammunition and rations to keep them alive ... Students’ backpacks are stacked with paper and books, pens and pencils, calculators, rulers, the occasional highlighter and even a red pen or two. These supplies … help students in cases of unforeseen emergencies, such as pop quizzes or extemporaneous speeches.”

Kuntz already has collected several boxes of materials that she and the students plan to sort through and mail right away. The supplies will be shipped to Nixon at LSU, where a distribution center has been set up, according to the Louisiana educators’ letter.

Kuntz said she anticipates postage will be expensive because the boxes can’t be mailed through the Military Postal System. She plans to ask private organizations on base whether they could help with mailing costs. The drive, she said, will continue until there’s no longer a need.

“The needs here are ongoing, especially now that Hurricane Rita has exacerbated the situation,” Nixon told Kuntz in an e-mail.

How to help

The senior class at Edgren High School, Misawa Air Base, Japan, is collecting materials for students, teachers and schools affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The drive is part of an effort spearheaded through Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Supplies being sought include book bags or backpacks, trade books and supplies such as pens, notebooks, paper, folders, highlighters, rulers, and the like — used or new.

Donated materials may be dropped off in Room No. 4 at at Edgren High School from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday. Call DSN 226-4377 or e-mail Laurie Kuntz at laurie.kuntz@pac.dodea.edu for more information.

Anyone living outside Misawa can send donations directly to Brenda Nixon, assistant director, Gordon A. Cain Center, 222 Preston Hall, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803.

— Jennifer H. Svan

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