Saint Mary's Responds to Gulf Coast Hurricane Disaster

In the days following Hurricane Katrina, Saint Mary’s College received numerous calls from families of students displaced from their universities in New Orleans. In response, the College welcomed 10 undergraduate students from Dillard University, Loyola University New Orleans, Tulane University, and Xavier University of Louisiana in early September, who will continue their studies for the fall semester while their universities recover from hurricane damage.

Saint Mary’s has been working with the students’ families to ensure that they are supported financially to every extent possible, according to Michael Beseda, vice provost for enrollment. Despite residence halls that were near capacity at the start of the school year, space was found to accommodate the five students who requested housing.

Beseda, who personally took many of the calls from displaced students, said that giving displaced students the chance to continue their education was consistent with the College’s Lasallian mission, and that many Saint Mary’s community members were looking for ways to help.

On their first day at Saint Mary’s, several students expressed appreciation for having a place to study until their schools recover from the flooding and hurricane damage.

“I’m glad I found someplace that would take me in and give me a new home,” Nikeda Woods, a senior from Xavier University of Louisiana, told a local television reporter in an interview on her first day at Saint Mary’s.

Bridges to the Bayou

To aid fellow Lasallian communities in Louisiana, SMC’s Campus Ministry has launched “Bridges to the Bayou,” a crisis response effort, in cooperation with the Office of Education at De La Salle Institute in Napa. The campaign includes fundraising throughout the Christian Brothers’ District of San Francisco from Yakima, Washington to Tijuana, Mexico, as well as service learning opportunities for students.

One of those opportunities to provide direct hurricane relief will be a January Term course that will send 25 Saint Mary’s students to New Orleans for three weeks to clean away debris and restore parks. Students will live on a sleeper bus and prepare all of their own food, says Shawny Anderson, associate dean of the School of Liberal Arts, who will lead the course.