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College After Katrina


Many schools celebrate homecoming in the fall. That term has a more poignant meaning to students scattered after Hurricane Katrina. Reed Galin introduces us to a young man in New Orleans who returned to the campus, and the city, he now calls home.

(Locator: New Orleans, La.)

Like so many in the Crescent City, Dillard University student Raphael Richard, Jr. is trying to rebuild his life.

Raphael Richard, Jr./Dillard University Junior:  “In a week and a half you had your life completely turned over.”

The 20-year-old evacuated his dorm before Hurricane Katrina hit.  He considered continuing his education elsewhere, but chose instead to return to Dillard.   

Raphael Richard, Jr./Dillard University Junior:  “You find your own home within a university, and when you find home, you know that, and you’re going to feel it within your heart.” 

After the storm, the historic towering oaks over this United Methodist-supported school were submerged. The gleaming white buildings stained.  It was the hardest-hit of any university in the region.

Like others, Raphael was frustrated with the slow pace of recovery, so a new career was born.  He changed his major from secondary education to urban studies and public policy.  

Raphael Richard, Jr./Dillard University Junior:  “They’re going to need fresh new minds to help them reform some policies and figure out what needs to be done.”

Raphael isn’t alone.  Half of the 2,100 students enrolled at the predominately African-American university before Katrina have returned.

Dr. Freddye Hill/Vice President of Campus Life, Dillard University:  “I believe that our students see themselves differently; they see themselves as pioneers.”

It’s believed Dillard’s rebuilding effort will help revive the neighborhood, with students like Raphael leading the way.

Raphael Richard, Jr./Dillard University Junior:  “I think it will all work out, eventually. It may not work out before I graduate or the class after me graduates, but we’re going to make Dillard bigger and better.”


Last semester, Dillard students attended classes at a Hilton hotel in downtown New Orleans. Campus rebuilding costs are expected to top 250 million dollars.  And, unlike public institutions, Dillard does not have the resources of the state government to help with recovery.

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