05/30/2013 01:19 pm ET Updated Jul 30, 2013

Returning the Favor

On May 19, Winds of over 160 miles per hour ravaged through the state of Oklahoma. A state of emergency was called in 16 counties, and over two billion dollars in damage was caused. Thousands of people are still without homes and the rebuilding process is looking like a long and difficult path.

After my experiences during and after Hurricane Sandy, I feel nothing but empathy for those affected by the tragic events of the tornado. I live in the town of Merrick, New York, a hamlet on the south shore of Long Island. The southern part of Long Island was one of the hardest hit areas. Many families were displaced and some people's property has still yet to be recovered from the damage. I was displaced for a period of time and lived in my grandma's while waiting for my power and heat to return to my house. I was temporarily kept out of school, as my high school, John F. Kennedy High School, was without power temporarily after the storm.

By the time the school reopened, I was still living in my grandma's house and the school was running on a generator. Kids came in tired and cold from living in homes with no heat or hot water. There was a policy enacted that allowed people to charge any electronic device they want in any electrical socket in the school.

Days, weeks, and months went by. Insurance companies came and went. The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) eventually restored power, people began rebuilding their devastated homes, and the damage from the storm is still present today. That being said, my community would be much farther back in our recovery process if it weren't for the people from all around the country and even around the world, who donated money and help in order to give us a chance to rebuild our community. We are beyond grateful to these people, and it is time to give back to those who need our help.

With over two billion dollars in damage, there is a lot of rebuilding to be done. My friend Steven Gassert and I are running a charity drive to raise money for those in need in Oklahoma. This is our last opportunity to work together as high school students, and we hope to make a difference with this project. We hope to raise at least 500 dollars for these families in need, but our real goal is to raise as much money as we can to help rebuild these people's lives. Because we are hoping to spread word about our cause on a more than local level, we are collecting donations online in a link that I will attach to the end of this article.

Every dollar counts, whether you have been affected by a natural disaster or not, we all can contribute to help these people rebuild their lives. Spread the word; tell all of your friends and family. Once we get the ball rolling, it never has to stop. When a cause becomes strong enough, it can be a pretty special and powerful thing.