National Wildlife Federation and Nickelodeon Team Up With St. Bernard Parish for the Big Help

Nickelodeon’s The Big Help aims to inspire a kid-led movement for positive change.

For the students of St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, planting a tree is more than just a good deed for planet Earth. For this community southeast of New Orleans, trees can mean the difference between surviving and not surviving a deadly hurricane.

So when 50 students from Chalmette High School and St. Bernard Middle School teamed up with the National Wildlife Federation and Nickelodeon on April 8 to plant 300 cypress trees along the Mississippi River in honor of Earth Day, they brought with them a certain seriousness of purpose that is uncommon among 12-to-17 year-olds.

Don’t get me wrong. They were having fun.  After all, they were hanging out with Victoria Justice, Leon Thomas, and Daniella Monet, stars of Nickelodeon’s popular Victorious TV show, and were thrilled to think they might wind up on national TV in one of the clips Nickelodeon will run on Earth Day.  They behaved like kids anywhere at the party that followed, chowing down on barbecue and ice cream, dancing to the music of Rihanna and Wiz Khalifa, and hurling themselves around on inflatable games like Gladiator and Alligator Log Roll.

But these students have been through something most kids have not.

Remembering Hurricane Katrina

When Hurricane Katrina slammed into Louisiana in August 2005, almost every structure in St. Bernard Parish—homes, schools, churches, businesses—was flooded. A great many were destroyed.

Some students, like eighth grader Wayna Major, evacuated before the storm for what his family thought would be a few days. “When I saw all the water and the people on TV I thought, that could have been me,” he said. Sober thoughts for a nine-year-old.

Erica Schott (then a sixth grader), also evacuated before the storm. “I had to leave all my stuff, my pets,” she said.  “I went through five schools that first year.”

Daniel Flattman, now a high school senior, stayed, along with his dad, “to keep an eye on things.” They spent four days transporting stranded neighbors by boat to makeshift shelters, one of which was Chalmette High School.

Whether they left or stayed, all of these young people know the value of community and are no strangers to what Nickelodeon is promoting with its campaign “The Big Help”young people can make a difference by volunteering in their own communities. They also know the value of wetlands—including cypress forests—as storm buffers that protect communities from damaging winds and water.

Make Earth Day count for you and your family this year. Join the “B Kind 2 Earth Day” campaign!

Nickelodeon presented a $25,000 donation acknowledging the ongoing restoration efforts of NWF and the St. Bernard Parish Public Schools.

Rebuilding and Replanting

Wayna has been learning about wetlands since 4th grade and could tell me that Louisiana has 40 percent of the nation’s coastal wetlands and is losing them due to saltwater intrusion.

It’s ironic that a little-used shipping channel, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, ushered in both the salt water that destroyed St. Bernard’s massive cypress forests and the 25-foot storm surge that flooded the community.   The channel was finally closed after Katrina and the whole community is rebuilding and replanting.

For these kids, Nickelodeon’s presence was a way to show the world that St. Bernard Parish is coming back and that young people are taking a leadership role in guaranteeing that recovery. They were honored and excited and deeply satisfied by the attention.

As Wayna Major put it, “Nickelodeon treated us with integrity, like young adults.”

Throughout the day, the Nickelodeon staff kept referring to the TV stars—Victoria, Leon, and Daniella—as “the talent.”  From what I could see, they weren’t the only talent.  It was everywhere.

See more photos from the event National Wildlife Federation’s Gulf Coast Response Flickr page.

Make Earth Day Count!

Inspired by these kids? Want to do something to make a difference in your community?

Join National Wildlife Federation, Nickelodeon and in our B Kind 2 Earth Day campaign.

It’s simple: promise to do one nice thing for the Earth on April 22nd and help make Earth Day really mean something.

Take your kids on a walk, ditch the disposable grocery bags, do a park clean-up, install a bird feeder – whatever it is, big or small, your actions to love, respect and B Kind 2 Earth will add up!

Need inspiration? Check our our list of 5 Ways to Unplug and Connect with Your Family for Earth Day.

When you decide what to do, share with us on Facebook!