October 26, 2005
05-237

Charles Harmon Director of University Relations, Sementha Mathews Manager of Public Information and Media Relations

After the Storm

Almost two months after Hurricane Katrina whipped through the Gulf of Mexico leaving property and lives in shambles, displaced college students are picking up the pieces and making the most in their new locations.

The emotional trauma left by the storm, combined with the mental challenges of catching up on three weeks of missed classroom instruction at a new university, was met head on by the various players at VSU, as it welcomed one graduate and six undergraduate students with opened arms.

Daniel Rodriguez was an undergraduate student at the University of New Orleans, on a baseball scholarship with the Privateers. When Katrina entered the picture, the baseball team relocated to New Mexico State. Due to a baseball injury earlier in the year requiring Tommy John surgery on Rodriguez's elbow, the recovering and unplayable Rodriguez was left behind.

Though Rodriguez's home in Slidell, Louisiana, was amazingly spared during the hurricane, Rodriguez's apartment in New Orleans was not. Fourteen feet of water destroyed everything he owned.

"All my material things were lost, but they can be replaced," said Rodriguez, who added that his most important treasures--family members, friends and teammates--are all doing fine.

Rodriguez quickly decided he needed to continue his studies elsewhere, and a little familiarity did seem to make the process a bit easier. Since Rodriguez had attended Hahira Middle School in eighth grade and Lowndes High School during his freshman and sophomore years, VSU became his first pick.

Displaced from his team, displaced from his school, displaced from home and family, Rodriguez has since been piecing his life back together.

Dr. Li-Mei Chen, a professor in English at VSU and one of Rodriquez's instructors, said Rodriguez is a good student and has adjusted well. And although Rodriguez plans to return to New Orleans next semester, and eventually dreams of playing for Major League Baseball, he expresses much appreciation to VSU, his instructors, and his peers for contributing to the smooth transition.

"I appreciate how they were willing to work with me," said Rodriguez. "Whatever I needed, they helped me."

Walter Peacock, director of Admissions and Enrollment Management, and whose department staff counseled students into their new schedules, said that all seven transient students have adjusted well, in spite of their experiences. At least half of the transient students were not strangers to the Valdosta area.