Katrina affects CSUN students in Gulf Coast region

Daily Sundial

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While the federal, state and local governments continue their reconstruction plans for New Orleans and surrounding areas, thousands of students continue to cope with the changes that have resulted from Hurricane Katrina.

Mo’Shai Gibbs and Nia Bluitt, two CSUN students on exchange at Southern University in Baton Rouge, said Hurricane Katrina changed their lives. Gibbs, Bluitt and a third CSUN student were scheduled to study at SU for the 2005-06 academic year.

Gibbs wrote in an e-mail that she remembers the panic she and Bluitt felt as soon as they were informed of the evacuation. Both said campus phone lines were unreliable.

Bluitt asked her friend at the University of Houston if they could stay there and they then packed clothes for three days in five minutes and left, Gibbs wrote. Gibbs also recalled how the sky looked as they drove off to safety. She said the sky hovered over her with eerie colors of dark gray and blue.

“I have never seen the sky look like that,” Gibbs wrote.

Gibbs and Bluitt were fortunate to leave in time; at nearby Xavier University, 450 students were stranded on the campus for six days.

Bluitt recalled feeling neglected.

“It kind of feels like we were forgotten for a while by the government,” Bluitt wrote. “Cries for help went unheard for too many days, and people were stuck in New Orleans for too long.”

Bluitt said life in Baton Rouge drastically changed. Little things like shopping and eating have become difficult.

“The shelves at Wal-Mart stay empty,” Bluitt wrote, adding that the demand for food and supplies is overwhelming.

“I often wonder if the government could step – in and help with this part,” Bluitt wrote.

Although President George Bush proposed $1.9 billion in student aid for students in K-12 schools, the exact amount of aid for college students has only been suggested, according to reports.

Congressman George Miller, D-Calif., is currently attempting to get federal lawmakers to step in with legislation to ensure that students from the Gulf Coast are not penalized on their federal grants and loans, if they cannot attend school this semester.

The population in Baton Rouge has nearly doubled, which has put a strain on already limited resources. Bluitt said the traffic in Baton Rouge now makes her feel right at home.

Gibbs lost communication with a great aunt for a week, and also lost a close friend of her family.

“This hit close to home for me. It is sad to see all the children in that shelter not knowing if they will ever see their parents again,” Gibbs wrote. “My heart goes out to all those families.”

Bluitt said she also feels grateful that she was not one of the more unfortunate victims of the hurricane.

“I feel blessed to still have shelter and a place to go to school,” Bluitt wrote.

She also said southern hospitality can be seen in Baton Rouge now.

“People are adopting families and letting them in their homes,” she wrote. “I send my prayers out to the victims of New Orleans.”

Both girls have decided that they will stay in school in Louisiana, Bluitt wrote she is even thinking about going to Louisiana State University for law school.

“I think it is more my speed,” Bluitt wrote.

Connie Llanos can be reached at connie.llanos.600@csun.edu.