HOUSTON - A teacher's impact is often felt beyond the classroom and that is especially true for a Stratford High School educator who went above and beyond for her students and fellow staffers affected by Hurricane Harvey.
One year ago, Sara Russo was started a new school year with her advanced placement government class full of seniors while a storm brewed in the Gulf of Mexico.
"We weren't really nervous about it at first, we thought we'd be out for a day or two and we would be back on Monday," Russo said.
But Harvey changed her lesson plans in a way she never expected.
"Oh wait we're closing down school," she recalled.
Russo kept in touch with her students through a messaging system usually reserved for homework questions.
"I started sending messages 'Hey, let me know that you're OK. Hey, what's going on?' At first, it was 'Thanks for checking on me, we're good.' And then the next day as the flooding got more serious, 'We had to evacuate Ms. Russo.' 'We lost our home.' 'We're not sure what's going on,' Russo said.
She decided to take action.
"It was just trying to get resources as far as I could for what I call my kids," Russo said.
She used her neighborhood moms Facebook page to gather basic items for her students in need.
Then she organized a college essay review session at her home for seniors who wouldn't let Harvey stop the next step in their education.
"The kids brought their computers or whatever they had handwritten and for four hours we edited essays," she said.
Russo ended up organizing an entire relief effort, gathering cleaning supplies, teams of students to volunteer to muck out houses and providing meals for Stratford staffers.
Her selfless work beyond the classroom earned her the School Bell Award from the Spring Branch Council of PTAs.
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