Stepping up to the post-Katrina challenge

Colleges lend a helping hand

Colleges all over the United States, and especially in the region just beyond Katrina's footprint, have rallied quickly to make room for displaced students. Far from offering just emergency shelter, supplies, and volunteer help, schools have immediately enrolled people whose normal college plans were swept away in last week's chaos.

Arkansas State University in Jonesboro is one of many universities that has waived out-of-state tuition for students affected by Katrina. Arkansas residents who started enrolling last week in the wake of the storm are receiving full scholarships for at least one semester.

Perhaps even more important than the financial aid, at least in these early days, are the "hurricane buddies" provided for new arrivals. Since classes have already been under way for two weeks, current ASU students have stepped forward to make sure their classmates feel at home.

"[Newcomers] may have half a dozen hurricane buddies if they're taking six classes, but it will be someone who can instantly supply them with the notes they've taken in class and can help them get caught up," says Lynita Cooksey, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs. "I'm really seeing in our student body that desire to initiate things and start helping people immediately."

For updated information on what college communities are doing to help: www.collaborative pr.com/collegesrespond

- Stacy A. Teicher

13-year-old boy to the rescue

Twelve Biloxi, Miss., residents probably owe their lives to 13-year-old Phillip Bullard, according to a story reported in the Miami Herald.

When hurricane Katrina hit this coastal city, the dozen family members and friends were gathered in the only bedroom of a small wooden home. Water began to rush in, and they sought refuge in the living room.

Unable to swim, most of them were unwilling to try to leave. At this point, Phillip stepped in. He went underwater and cleared a path to a broken front window. He then stationed his adult-age sister, the only other person in the home who knew how to swim, outside the window to help get the family into a boat they found floating down the street.

In total, Phillip swam, floated, and guided four adults and nine children, including himself, through the house and out the front window. "I just didn't want to see my family drown," Phillip was quoted as saying.

Animals will be helped, too

When residents evacuated for hurricane Katrina, many had to leave pets behind. But these pets have not been forgotten. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Disaster Relief Fund has received more than $800,000 in donations, and the ASPCA board of directors has allocated an additional $250,000 for rebuilding shelters.

ASPCA has also set up two databases to help people find their pets and for people to volunteer to help with animal relief efforts.

- Jennifer Moeller

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