Oklahoma tornadoes: Oklahoma City's Douglass students work 'with own hands'

The Oklahoma City school's sophomore class helped clean up tornado damage in Little Axe, but first some local residents had to be convinced that the young people were there for a good purpose.
BY CARMEN FORMAN cforman@opubco.com Modified: May 29, 2013 at 8:52 pm •  Published: May 30, 2013
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— “With our own hands” is a phrase Douglass High School students wear boldly on their shirts and a motto they practice, even though their school has a reputation as a sometimes-rough place.

The Oklahoma City school's sophomore class helped clean up tornado damage in Little Axe, but first some local residents had to be convinced that the young people were there for a good purpose.

Matt Tilley, a 10th-grade English teacher and trip organizer, said Wednesday that he had to vouch for the students. A resident expressed fears of looting when the group arrived for the cleanup effort Friday.

“They had heard so much news from Douglass about fights or stealing, they probably expected it to happen there, too, but it never happened,” Douglass sophomore Dontae Wells said.

About 120 students worked in teams for four hours to remove tree branches and debris from residents' homes.

Many of the students had never volunteered before nor had they seen such intense tornado damage.

“It was sad because everything was gone,” 10th-grader Tawonna Carolina said. “There weren't any trees and people's houses were destroyed. It just hit you hard that they have nowhere else to go.”

When the residents saw what the students could do, their attitudes changed.

The young students saw tears, received thank you notes and were invited back to Little Axe.

“Our class motto is ‘with our own hands,' and it's basically saying when a road to success can't be found we build one with our own hands, and that's pretty much what we did,” Douglass sophomore Ladanae Thompson said. “We helped clean up. We helped another community with our own hands; that is what the class of 2015 is trying to do.”