Colorado students helping Harvey victims rebuild in Dickinson

DICKINSON, Texas (KTRK) -- A community hit hard by Hurricane Harvey is getting a boost this week from students who traveled from hours away.

This isn't your typical classroom assignment. High school students hammered tile, threw away debris and carried trash to the curb Monday.

"For me, this is supposed to feel rewarding, a way to feel good about myself," Puspa Puri said. "To know that I helped someone else who couldn't help themselves."

They're helping people they don't even know. The group of students traveled from Colorado.

"We saw what you guys went through, and I just want to be a part of the help," Alondra Ibarra said.

After Harvey hit, the Hinkley High School students thought of a way to travel to the Houston area.

They spent the past few weeks raising money. In order to make the trip happen to help residents of Dickinson, the school raised more than $30,000.

Matthew Abernathy is one of those residents hit hard by the hurricane.

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"It's hard not to look back at it, but seeing the progress and how much everything has moved forward in three months has been phenomenal," Abernathy said.

After months of work, Matthew Abernathy's walls are up, appliances in, and even the Christmas decorations are out.

"That sense of normalcy, and trying to get back," Abernathy said.

While his home is back, many others are not. The city said more than 5,000 homes had water damage.

So far, only 581 have applied for permits. To try and keep people in Dickinson, the city is waiving fees.

If people got one, or two feet of water, they don't have to pay anything for permits. However, those most severely impacted do.

If the water went above the light switch, the city is making people pay because they say the wiring is more extensive and their inspectors have to do more work.

It's one reason why Calvin Huffman is moving.

"I would say we're done with Dickinson," Huffman said. "We're done with the whole area."

His home received more than five feet of water. Instead of rebuilding, he's decided to head west.

"It's tough," Huffman said. "It's real tough. When you lose everything and you never know what tomorrow is bringing."

Meanwhile, the Colorado students aren't on school vacation while they perform community service in Dickinson. In addition to doing work during the day, they're required to do homework at night.

But don't worry, they'll get to enjoy some southern treats.

"We got really excited when we saw Whataburger," Ibarra said.

While there might be some fun, the students know the work won't be easy, but it could provide a lifelong lesson.

"No, it's not, but it's fun work," Puri said. "When you're with people around you that truly want to help out others it becomes fun."

The students will be in Dickinson until Friday. They will get to do a little sight seeing.

They plan to travel to Galveston to see some of the parks, and water.

Keep in mind, they are from Colorado, and some of these kids have been land locked their whole lives, so seeing the Gulf of Mexico will be a real treat.

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