Springfield College grad helping Hawaiian high school rebuild after wildfires

As we continue to learn more about the devastation suffered by so many from the wildfires in Maui, we’re also learning more about ways people are trying to help
Published: Aug. 16, 2023 at 3:23 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- As we continue to learn more about the devastation suffered by so many from the wildfires in Maui, we’re also learning more about ways people are trying to help and Springfield College graduate, who now lives in Maui, is leading one of those efforts.

It has now been a week since wildfires ravaged most of the town of Lahaina and changed the lives of those who survived. However, with all the destruction comes hope and someone leading fundraising efforts for those affected is Jonathan Conrad. He is a high school teacher at Lahainaluna High School in Maui and a 1997 graduate of Springfield College. Western Mass News spoke with Conrad’s sister, Heather Digirolamo, about the impact of these wildfires on the school community where her brother works.

“So, there’s about 80 to 90 percent of the people at the school, students, and faculty, have been affected. Many of them live right in that town, many of them lost their homes, many of them don’t have insurance. It was just complete devastation,” Digirolamo said. “They are going to need everything to rebuild again, right, from what you need to build a house, to what you need to put in it. They need clothes.”

Digirolamo told us her brother is working tirelessly to provide any help he can.

“So, he’s literally all hand on deck right now,” Digirolamo added. “For 20 hours a day, he is on his phone, he is the go-to guy. He’s the most senior staff now at that school and he’s got the connections and he just makes it happen. Whatever is needed, people go to him. They know that he’s going to follow through and get it done.”

It’s a work ethic she said started the moment Conrad graduated and it’s one that Charlene Elever, the director of the Center of Services and Leadership at Springfield College, told us is shared by every student there - past and present.

“It’s not a surprise to me that there is an alum that’s so involved there. I think Springfield College leaves, our students leave with a lasting commitment towards purpose, towards service to others and so, often we see our alumni and our current students step forward in times of tragedy as well as just on an everyday basis,” Elvers explained. “We have several other alums on the island and we will be working probably through our alumni network to find out from people who are there what the most pressing needs are and if there is a way that we can connect students with those needs.”

Conrad and the Lahainaluna High School Foundation are now fundraising to help students and faculty impacted by the wildfires. In the meantime, Digirolamo said she can’t wait to see her brother again and wishes she could offer more support.

“Oh my God! I would give him the hugest hug and I’m so grateful that he’s okay, knowing that a lot of people are not, and I feel terribly about that and I would just be right there to be his right-hand person and I would be his runner and whatever he needs to continue to make things happen and help the people in Lahaina. I would be right there, helping him,” Digirolamo said.

If you wish to contribute to the fundraising efforts by Conrad and the Lahainaluna High School, you can CLICK HERE for more information.