Karen Martinez, who was usually a happy and bubbly student, seemed quiet and sad.
Miles decided she needed to find out what was upsetting her student.
The news Martinez gave her “rocked” her world, Miles said.
At the time, stories of Typhoon Haiyan hitting the Philippines were all over the news, but it all seemed so far away.
Martinez, whose mother’s side of the family is from the Philippines, said many of her family members had gone missing in the aftermath of the typhoon. As of last week, some news organizations reported that nearly 2,000 people had still not been found.
Miles learned Walker Valley had several students of Filipino descent enrolled, which prompted a schoolwide effort to raise awareness of how the typhoon had impacted the Philippines and raise money for relief efforts.
“It was me not realizing that we had a Filipino population at our school,” Miles said.
She, Martinez and another Filipino student — Princess Viloria — approached the school’s principal with the idea of raising money to send overseas.
After getting the approval they needed, students, their families and the school’s staff helped raise $1,054 to give to the Salvation Army to assist with relief efforts in the Philippines.
While they only anticipated raising $300 or $400, they greatly surpassed the goal, Miles said.
Since the fundraiser first started, Martinez said her family has been found to be alive and “mostly OK.”
Viloria, who lives in the United States with just her mother, said she had, thankfully, received good news from her family as well.
Still, both students said they were grateful for the chance to teach their classmates about the Philippines. Miles said it was a great learning opportunity for the students and staff.
The girls, along with other students who volunteered to help, made posters with photos to raise awareness of the devastation. Soon, the situation in the Philippines became part of hallway conversations, with many students saying they did not realize the extent of what had been going on in that country.
“I think it made a big impact,” Miles said.
In addition to being a learning opportunity for the students, she added it also made the school’s staff realize they needed to be more aware of how many international students the school has and the issues that might affect their lives.
Miles said Walker Valley is now accepting donations for another cause that help people in the Philippines pick up the pieces from the disaster.
The school will be raising money for the Cleveland-based Amazing Grace International Ministries, which will be taking a team of volunteers to the Philippines to assist with relief efforts.
Anyone who wishes to donate can mail their contributions to the school at 750 Lauderdale Memorial Highway, Cleveland TN 37312. For more information, email Miles at firstname.lastname@example.org.