Harmony Science Academy in Katy is a familiar constant for fourth-grader Kailei McGowan, 9, who with her family was forced to evacuate her Richmond apartment because of flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.
McGowan has been attending the academy for two years, but she’s belonged to the Mission Bend Girl Scout Troop 150061 for four years.
“Kailei is outgoing, smart and very helpful,” said troop leader Ashley Kanatzar-Fuller.
That helpfulness was evident at Marshall High School.
“When she arrived at the shelter she and her family would be staying in, she did what any Girl Scout would do. She put on her vest and started serving others,” said Mona Tolbert, Girl Scouts Of San Jacinto Council communications director.
“For more than a 100 years, Girl Scouts have been some of the first to respond to their community in times of disaster. Kailei is no exception,” added Tolbert.
“When in the shelter, she was first scared but then wore her vest (after 24 hours) and started to help,” explained Nancy Liedtke, Katy campus outreach coordinator for Harmony Science Academy.
“Her mom, Ashlei (Gill) said “everything is her favorite so she was worried about her things and other people but once she was able to help, she started to smile again and it made her feel better,” continued Liedtke.
“Mom asked, ‘Don’t you want to rest and relax?,'” said Kailei talking about her stay at Marshall. Her reply: “No, I want to help. I want to do so many things.”
She gave out canned food, water, clothes and cleaning supplies to other survivors.
“The next day I helped again until it was time to go,” said Kailei.
She has good memories of others who helped them.
“If someone else gets in a hurricane, I’m going to help them because all the people helped us,” she said.
That help started after opening their first-floor apartment door, they found water as high as her toddler brother, Giovanni. They spent the night with an upstairs neighbor until rescuers with boats could come hours later. “I was scared. I had not been in this kind of boat before,” said Kailei, who as a Girl Scout has gone canoeing. “Cars were underwater. It was really scary to see cars drowned.” From the boat they traveled by National Guard truck.
They have since revisited their former apartment in Richmond. They found the walls cut away and repairs had yet to start. “It’s been a mess,” said Kailei. “It’s been horrible.”
Harmony Science Academy has had several families displaced, said Liedtke, and the school established a Harmony Harvey Relief fund to help.
The school also has tried to steer children away from the details and trauma related to Hurricane Harvey, said Charmaine Diallo, who is Kailei’s home room teacher and math and science teacher.
Diallo said the school has offered to help students with uniforms if they lost them in the floods. During September, all students were offered free breakfasts and lunches, she said.
“We’ve taken donations. The school has done a lot to help the students,” said Diallo. While school was closed, she was among teachers who did home visits to check on students to make sure everything was OK, said Diallo, adding that some don’t want to say that they need help.
“I’m really proud of our students. A lot of students were affected, displaced. They’re doing really well even though they were affected emotionally. They are still pulling through it pretty good,” said Diallo.
Kailei’s mom, Ashlei Gill, sees Hurricane Harvey as a life-changing experience.
She thinks people are more open now and friendly.
“Thank you to all the people who helped us,” said Gill. “It would have been a lot harder without them. We lost everything but it could have been harder or worse because we weren’t alone.”
Harmony Public Schools also were negatively impacted by the hurricane. The Harmony Science Academy Braeswood, 5435 S. Braeswood Blvd., flooded.