“Let’s Help Nebraska”

The Royal Valley High School JAG-K program completed a community service project-based learning application the first week of April. The idea was student created and led, saw engagement throughout the community, and was focused on helping a fellow JAG state. In just four days, students gathered and collected supplies and implemented a plan to provide disaster relief to those impacted by the devastating flooding in Nebraska.

On Friday, March 29, 2019, Shyree Jackson, a JAG-K student at Royal Valley High School, approached her Career Specialist, Jeff Gustin, and said, “Mr. Gustin, we need to do something for Nebraska.” He told her they could talk about it during class on Monday and see what the rest of the students thought. On Saturday, March 30, the JAG-K Region Six Career Development Conference (CDC) was held and Gustin informed Chuck Knapp, JAG-K President/CEO, about the idea presented by Shyree. Knapp shared that Fremont, Nebraska had just started a new JAG program.

That Monday, April 1, the students were asked, “What would you do if a natural disaster happened in our area?” It started a discussion about how to help people that were impacted by any kind of natural disaster. The students in each class watched videos and looked at photographs of the flooding that had occurred the week before in Nebraska. Gustin, whose brother and father live in that area of Nebraska, shared pictures of some of the flooded and broken roads that he uses when he visits his family.

The second question prompted students to think about what should be done first when planning how to help after natural disasters. The students covered six questions to understand what was going on and ensure they helped in the ways that Nebraska needed. The six questions were: who, what, where, when, how, and why? Students in each class discussed these small questions as they related to a natural disaster and, specifically, how those questions could be answered and applied to the flooding in Nebraska.

Students then developed four primary steps of action to develop a relief supply drive specifically for helping Nebraska. Those four steps were as follows:


  1.  What items are needed?
  2.  How can we engage the community?
  3.  When should our deadline for supplies be?
  4.  Where will we take the collected items?


The students decided they wanted to primarily use social media as the way to get the word out into the community. Some of the students made flyers to advertise the supply drive, while others developed video explanations of what JAG-K was doing and how to help. Links to the videos are provided at the end of the document.

Using the United Way website, students found that flood victims in Nebraska primarily needed the following items: clothing, food, cleaning supplies, and hygiene products. They also discussed a timeline and decided to try to have all the items brought to Royal Valley High School by Friday, April 5. The goal was to have at least a vanload of items be delivered to Nebraska on Monday, April 8.

Gustin then informed his students about the conversation that he had with Knapp at the Regional Career Development Conference and how Fremont was one of the first JAG programs in the state of Nebraska. He continued to explain that Emily Montgomery, a former JAG-K Career Specialist in Kansas, was the new Specialist at Fremont High School. The students asked their specialist to contact Montgomery while they continued to work on their video scripts and poster design. Gustin spoke with the Fremont High School secretary, who informed him that Montgomery was currently unavailable, but was able to share her email address with Gustin. He then explained to the school secretary what the JAG-K students were planning to do, and she thought it would be a great idea and encouraged them to continue. Gustin sent Montgomery an email to briefly explain their plan and requested that she contact him by phone to share further details of the project and answer any questions she might have.

The students found the answers to their questions and began creating their videos and flyers. Each class prepared a minimum of one video to explain the project to the Royal Valley community. With just a four-day timeline, the students encountered a speed bump. The building principal was at the district office for meetings and would not be back until noon to give them permission. The students decided that Gustin would send an email with a short cover announcement and links to the videos as soon as approval was received. Students could then begin sharing the videos and posts across social media and into the community. Approval was received shortly after 12:00 pm when the principal returned.

The very next morning, items began pouring in. JAG-K students would quickly retrieve items brought to the front office of the High School and carry the items to the classroom. Throughout the day, students would come in during their free period to categorize the items and place them in boxes. Gustin and many of the students shared stories about their neighbors bringing supplies and donations to their home for them to take to school.

In the community, the Royal Valley Kansas Association for Youth (KAY) program did a coffee bar before school and during lunch, which raised approximately $150 to be donated to the Nebraska flood victims. One of the JAG-K students commented on how “the community quickly all came together to help the flood victims and I was surprised by how many people donated”. Between the KAY fundraising and personal donations from the community, JAG-K was able to fill a cargo van with items and received a total of $315 for the cause.

On April 8, Shyree Jackson, Chance Lyming, Trevor Matthews, and Gustin departed Royal Valley High School for the 3.5-hour drive to deliver the supplies to Nebraska. On the trip to Fremont, and on their multiple detours due to the damage, the students witnessed the devastation to homes along the Platte River in the Plattsmouth, Nebraska area. When they crossed a bridge over the Elkhorn River, it became evident just how high the water had been in that area by the lines left on trees and power poles.

Upon arrival at Fremont High School, students had a brief meet and greet with each other in one of their JAG classrooms. TheRoyal Valley students then went to the City Auditorium where the main United Way was set-up. Members of the community donated four separate buildings for the United Way to use for storing supplies, with the auditorium being the main distribution center. At the auditorium, JAG-K students were not hesitant to jump right in and help unload a trailer that had arrived from Hastings, Nebraska. The Director of the Fremont United Way, Shawn Shanahan, discussed their operation with the students and shared that they received a truck full of supplies from Wisconsin that same morning as well. Shanahan was impressed with the dedication that the students displayed by gathering community support and receiving the amount of money and supplies that they did with just four days of collection.

Shanahan then requested for the Royal Valley JAG-K team to drop off their supplies at one of the other locations. He escorted the team to the other location and students were able to help volunteers pack wooden pallets with their supplies. Excess items from each United Way center around Nebraska were distributed among the impacted communities, so even the towns without the United Way would receive supplies.

Once the supplies were unloaded and packaged, Gustin drove students on a short tour around Fremont to see most damaged areas and where many Fremont High School JAG students said they lived. The students saw mounds of sand, which were silted to areas up to a quarter of a mile from the river and piled as high as four feet. There were propane tanks wrapped around trees, refrigerators and stoves buried in sand, and houses that had been red tagged as unlivable.

On their trip home, students observed recovery efforts that were being made to rebuild destroyed infrastructure. They came across over 30 semi-trucks loaded with rock and ready to assist towns in rebuilding railroad tracks that ran along the Platte River. Trucks piled high with generator lights could be seen being unloaded and set up so that work around the Platte River could continue throughout the night. It was evident to students that work was being done during all 24-hours of the day.

As part of the team of students to deliver the items to Fremont, they were expected to give a short presentation to each of their JAG-K classes in which they would explain their experience and share photos with the other students. One student stated “It was my first time doing a flood relief project. We’ve shown the spirit of our school and our community who came together for the Cornhusker state”.

A representative of the Royal Valley School District shared the following:

“The Royal Valley School District, Hoyt, Mayetta, and Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation communities are proud of what your students accomplished in four days. This has been a very motivating, rewarding experience. Great job, Royal Valley JAG-K students!”

Let’s Help Nebraska I – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Syre1Fc-UY

Let’s Help Nebraska II – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pp46-JjqUW8

Let’s Help Nebraska III – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yjxmxjqwjA