Student evacuees aided in continuing their studies
With many universities in the Gulf Coast region forced to suspend operations indefinitely after Hurricane Katrina, Temple has opened its doors to more than 40 students displaced from their home institutions.
Temple offered students an immediate opportunity to take classes after the scope of the damage became apparent on Sept. 1. A majority of these undergraduate students, who have temporarily enrolled at Temple, at no charge, while continuing to pay tuition and fees to their home institutions, come from the University of New Orleans, Tulane University and Xavier University.
One such student, Christian Stevens, a senior majoring in business at the University of New Orleans, has formed an impromptu support group for fellow student evacuees who have landed here, as well as for returning Temple students who are from the affected region.
A Philadelphia native, Stevens and his family moved to New Orleans in 1998. Though he and his family escaped the city unharmed, they fear that their home, in New Orleans East, has been destroyed. Family members have put them up in a home in South Philadelphia for now.
“When I’m in New Orleans, I tell people that I’m from Philly,” said Stevens, who will return to the University of New Orleans in the spring if classes resume. “But being back up here, I now realize that New Orleans has become my hometown. I know it much better than Philadelphia; I feel lost here. That’s what inspired me to start this organization for students.”
Stevens, who hopes to broaden the organization to include evacuees at other regional universities, sees it as a network of friends who can help each other cope and navigate an unfamiliar city.
“Right now, a lot of us need a buddy, to have a ready-made friend in this area we know nothing of,” Stevens said. “I also want to include the affected students who were already studying here. In some ways, they are struggling more than someone like me, and I want them to play a major role in our group.”
To help Stevens, others in his situation and returning students touched by Katrina, the University hosted fundraisers last week at Main Campus. Temple has collected $10,000, which will be applied to a special fund to alleviate the financial burden placed on students affected by the hurricane.
“Temple University welcomes those students from the New Orleans area who are joining us until they are able to return to their home institutions,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Theresa A. Powell. “We are also mindful of our students who make their homes in the Gulf Coast region and have been affected by the hurricane. Many of these students lost everything and don’t have money to buy books, school supplies or other basic necessities. During this time of need, we want to help them in every way possible.”
Temple’s campaign for its affected students continued this week on Main Campus. Student Affairs personnel also have attempted to contact all Temple students from the Gulf Coast region and, along with the student evacuees, bring them together.
Stevens was present at one such gathering organized by Tuttleman Counseling Services last week and characterized the meeting as cathartic. There, he met others who are interested in joining his support group.
“As one of those who escaped and is in good shape, I’ve been struggling with what I’m supposed to do,” Stevens said. “It hit me last week that being involved on campus and forming this group is something that I can do to reach out to others. Temple and other schools in this area have opened their doors to us. By making good grades and being active on campus, it’s a way for me to say thanks and pay back Temple University.”
- By Ted Boscia