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Helios Education Foundation and Partners Take Action in Response to Hurricane Michael

Author: Helios Education Foundation

November 20, 2018

Eight days after forming in the southwestern Caribbean Sea, Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, on October 10, devastating the Florida Panhandle. The forceful storm attained peak wind speed of 155 mph prior to landfall, categorizing it as the most intense storm to strike Florida since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Sixty deaths were attributed to the storm, 45 within the United States. 

In light of the devastation, Helios Education Foundation collaborated with four partners to address the needs of community members, educators, and students impacted by the storm. Florida State University Foundation, the Florida College System Foundation, the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations, and Take Stock in Children were the recipients of Hurricane Michael relief grants issued by the foundation in October. The four grants totaled $150,000. 

“While the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael will take months to repair, we applaud the resilient nature of Floridians, the determination of communities to rebuild, and the steadfast commitment of our partners to ensure individual students remain focused on educational success,” said Paul Luna, President and CEO, Helios Education Foundation.

A total of seven state colleges and three public universities serve postsecondary students in the Panhandle region. Among those, Chipola College, Gulf Coast State College, and Tallahassee Community College in addition to Florida State University’s Panama City campus suffered the greatest impact from Hurricane Michael. Cumulatively, these institutions serve nearly 32,000 students. The Florida State University Foundation and the Florida College System, supported by grants from Helios, responded by facilitating emergency funding for students and educators as they strive to return to daily life. “The Helios Education Link Program (HELP) established with the Florida College System Foundation will directly serve state college students during this time of need as they recover from the impact of Hurricane Michael,” said Chancellor Madeline Pumariega, Chancellor of the Florida College System. “HELP will provide funding to students in the form of $500 grants assisting them to remain focused on their education.” 

Hurricane Michael not only damaged physical buildings, it devastated lives and livelihoods. Addressing the needs of K-12 students and their families, Helios’ partners Take Stock in Children and the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations facilitated local support grants to cover costs associated with basic needs such as clothing, shoes, and hygiene items while also addressing the need to recreate supportive educational environments. “Our local education foundations in the seven impacted county-wide school districts are identifying the needs of students and teachers with their school leaders,” said Mary Chance, President and CEO of the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations. “Recovery from this devastation will take a coalition of community leaders, and quite some time.”

The resiliency of community leaders focused on ensuring student success despite the challenges thrust upon them by Hurricane Michael affirms Helios’ fundamental belief that only through partnership and collaboration will we be successful. As a vested Florida partner, we are proud to do our part to support recovery efforts. 

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