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Howard U. Students Forsake the Beach to Lend a Hand

Howard University students Carmelle Kendall, 19, left, and Shamora Merritt, 18, search for the bus they will take to New Orleans.
Howard University students Carmelle Kendall, 19, left, and Shamora Merritt, 18, search for the bus they will take to New Orleans. (Photos By Lois Raimondo -- The Washington Post)

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By Vanessa Mizell and Courtney Bowe
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, April 9, 2007

NEW ORLEANS -- The following report was written by Howard University student journalists who traveled to New Orleans last month with classmates helping to rebuild the hurricane-damaged city.

Howard Ledet III doesn't live like the average high school senior. Hurricane Katrina forced him and his family to move to St. Martinville, La., from their home in New Orleans. But his decision to return to his school, St. Augustine High, and his city meant leaving his family and living alone in a FEMA trailer.

"My mother didn't want me to come back because she didn't want me to leave her, but I told her that St. Augustine is a treasure to my heart," Ledet said. "I had to come back. It was the only choice."

He spoke through a mouthful of braces and with the poise of someone older than his 18 years.

His trailer, which sits on a friend's lawn, is three inches shorter than his 6-foot-8 frame.

"It's not too bad. You just have to adjust your muscles, I guess," said Ledet, who is quick to say he wants to be a cardiologist, not a basketball player.

He was one of the many teens whom Howard University students met during Howard's Alternative Spring Break, when more than 500 students packed 10 buses to New Orleans to help with the rebuilding effort. It was the second consecutive year in which Howard students traveled to the city; 250 students spent their spring break in New Orleans last year.

Although most of the Howard students spent the week gutting and building houses in the Upper Ninth Ward, 38 students reported to St. Augustine, a predominantly African American Catholic school for boys. Howard students expected to offer help in algebra, English and other subjects. Instead, they said, the lessons taught and learned often had little to do with what could be found in a textbook.

Cheree Sims, 19, a junior psychology major, asked students in Sister Julianne Blanchard's theology class to tell where they were relocated to after Katrina.

"Houston."

"Connecticut."

"California."


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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