When Pomolita Middle School and Eagle Peak Middle School compete in academics, athletics, or the arts, the rivalry is fierce; but in the aftermath of the Redwood Complex Fire, students and staff from Pomolita have gone out of their way to help their Eagle Peak counterparts. On Friday, October 27, Pomolita staff made cookies for every single Eagle Peak student and delivered muffins and coffee to the Eagle Peak staff break room with messages of love and support.
Pomolita Principal Bryan Barrett said, “We wanted to do something as a staff for the Eagle Peak staff. We thought we could get coffee and muffins along with a card and a picture of us supporting Eagle Peak by dressing up in Eagle Peak colors. Then, one of our teachers, Andrea Werra, emailed colleagues asking if they wanted to volunteer to bake cookies for the students. Later, she told the story of when she was young and a friend would bake her cookies when she was feeling down. She said she can still remember the comfort she felt from the taste and smell of homemade chocolate chip cookies. Clearly, the staff thought it was a great idea.”
Eagle Peak Principal Dan Stearns said, “Pomolita has provided amazing support. I can’t believe they dressed up in our school colors during their spirit week in a show of solidarity. And then, these cookies—a cookie is the quintessential way to bring a smile to the face of a middle school student, especially during challenging times.”
Stearns said he and the whole Eagle Peak Middle School community have been overwhelmed by the generosity of community members, parents, and other school communities. He hesitated to name names for fear of forgetting a single donor, but said the Eagle Peak students and staff appreciate all the support.
“It’s a long list of individuals, groups and schools who’ve reached out to provide snacks and meals, as well as emotional and financial support,” he said. He noted that every student at the school has been affected, directly or indirectly. Some students were friends with Kai Shepherd, the eighth grader who passed away in the fire. Others lost homes, pets or other belongings. Others were evacuated, but able to return to homes that were still intact (though permeated with the smell of smoke).
Stearns said each student who lost their home has been asked about a cherished item they miss the most with the goal of replacing those items. “It’s been really emotional hearing the kids’ stories,” he said.
He pointed out that the silver lining of tragedies is to see the way people come together to support each other. “One student lost her ukulele in the fire, and within an hour of returning to school after we reopened, she had a new one in her hands. Another student lost his guitar and amp, and a kind-hearted stranger from Chico drove all the way here to donate a guitar and amp while the student was in class. Of course, we had to test it out for everyone to hear and it sounded awesome!”
Stearns noted that employees who are new to Eagle Peak Middle School have a deeper understanding of how close-knit the community is. “And I’ve seen a shift in the students,” Stearns said. “Middle school kids can be pretty wrapped up in themselves at times, but our kids are really focused on the needs of others. Their perspective has shifted.”
A community fundraiser for survivors of the Redwood Complex Fire will be held November 4 at the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. For details, visit www.mendocinostrongtogether.com.