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After the storm

Gulf Coast students continue education at RIT

Laura Sanchez
Laura Sanchez, a Loyola University, New Orleans, student from the Dominican Republic, accepted the opportunity to continue her schooling at RIT.
David Wright, Reporter Magazine

When Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast in August, RIT was one of the many colleges nationwide that opened its doors to more than 100,000 college students displaced by the catastrophic storm.

RIT enrolled about a dozen of these students in the fall quarter and waived tuition for full-time undergraduate students. In addition, RIT joined efforts with other universities and worked through the coordination and support of the Sloan Consortium offering displaced students the opportunity to take online classes at no cost.   

RIT’s mission: Help affected students maintain their progress toward completing their college degrees at their college in the Gulf region.
Here are some of the survivor stories of students who enrolled at RIT this fall:

Laura Sanchez was just setting up her new apartment at Loyola University in New Orleans when word came to evacuate. She fled to Texas with friends and a week later found herself getting oriented to RIT on the first day of classes.

“We evacuated, left everything,” Sanchez said. “My friends spent eight hours on the road to get to Baton Rouge.”

The second-year graphic design major says RIT is the perfect fit while she awaits word from Loyola.

Diego Padron, a native of Ecuador, spent his summer in New Orleans studying as a first-year MBA student at Tulane University. He heeded the call to evacuate.

After three days in Houston, Padron flew to California to be with friends. He contacted the Fulbright Program, which organizes an exchange of students, scholars and professionals between the United States and other nations.

“When I was applying with the Fulbright Program, RIT was one of my top choices along with Tulane,” said Padron. “So the Fulbright people suggested RIT and the College of Business, and this made sense to me.”
Padron arrived in Rochester just in time for the first week of classes. “RIT has been very great,” he said. “Everyone has been very helpful and the facilities are very, very nice.”

Kara Brown is a native of Rochester but has quickly become a veteran of hurricane evacuations. In 2004, Brown evacuated New Orleans for a week as a freshman at Dillard University as Hurricane Ivan hit the region. For Katrina, Brown escaped with her friends by driving to Dallas.

“It’s a good thing we left because my school was right in the middle of it,” said Brown. “Dillard is near Lake Pontchartrain where the levees broke. It is just unbelievable.”

Brown is now studying criminal justice at RIT. “RIT is showing me so much love. I am blessed to be at a prestigious university. My mom and dad really wanted me to come home to Rochester, but they wanted me to live on campus and get the college experience. I am very lucky to be safe and at home.”

Bob Finnerty

Campus community reaches out

“I am proud to report that the RIT community has responded in swift and tremendous fashion to Hurricane Katrina, an unprecedented tragedy that has undoubtedly changed the Gulf Coast region in ways that are unfathomable,” said RIT President Albert J. Simone.

President Simone & Shiela Sarratore
Franklin Strube, a second-year applied networking and systems administrator from Albany, uses his powers of persuasion to elicit donations to Hurricane Katrina relief. The fund-raising event was sponsored by Tau Kappa Epsilon.

RIT responded to the disaster in many ways:

• Members of Tau Kappa Epsilon camped out in tents near Wallace Library for a week to raise money and awareness.

• A service of remembrance was held in the RIT Interfaith Center.

• The RIT Leadership Institute, Community Service Center and Government and Community Relations Offices coordinated a “needed items” collection drive for victims of Hurricane Katrina as part of ROCS Day (Reaching Out for Community Service).

• The Co-op and Career Services Office offered resumé-writing and job-placement assistance to alumni and to RIT's current parents displaced by Katrina.