St. Mary's Students Help Katrina Victims

Monday, August 27, 2007

Preparations are underway in New Orleans to mark the Second Anniversary this week of Hurricane Katrina. Two years later -- here's where things stand: 256-miles of levees and flood-walls have been repaired. The Army corps of engineers expects the work to be completed by the year 2011.

About 2/3's of the population has returned, but only seven-percent of residents have come back to the Lower Ninth Ward, which was one of the poorest and most devastated neighborhoods. ABC7's Terry McSweeny sat down with some Bay Area residents who volunteered to help following the devastation.

More than a hundred students at St. Mary's College in Moraga can contribute to the national dialogue on this anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The school sent dozens of students there five months after the disaster, and again in January and April of this year. Some have gone more than once. They tore down and built up buildings and reconstructed lives. The students in these pictures have stories of people still living through the darkest of days. Like an elderly woman named Rosie who the students helped pack up and move out of her flooded home.

"You could tell it was tough for her but we talked and she told us about her story and we became close through the struggles of hers," said senior Dave Blanchard

There are stories of victims left with little, except for gratitude, like a woman named Sara.

"She is thankful and grateful to FEMA for giving her a place to stay and a bathroom and a bed. She said it doesn't matter what other people think, I'm just grateful for what I have," said sophomore Ryan Navarro.

There are observations of a nation moving too slowly.

"You go through two years later and it's not much different. The houses are cleared out, but the people are scattered around the country," said Linzy Gustafson a June '07 graduate.

Some of those who scattered following Katrina were college students, ten of whom took courses and temporary residence here at St. Mary's.

What motivates these St. Mary's college students is the philosophy of the founder of Christian Brothers' schools, Saint John De La Salle. He says when teachers get to heaven, saint peter won't ask what they've learned, he'll ask, what have your students learned?

"So I literally came back a more changed and confident person, knowing I can do anything with my own two hands and two feet," said Vince Sison a senior

"Get out in the world, realize changes need to be made and be the ones to make that change," said Associate Dean of Liberal Arts Shawny Anderson.

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