The Calm After the Storm
By Laurel Bauer, Media Relations Coordinator
In August 2005, three students were settled in for what was to be the most exciting time of their lives – the first semester at college. They had no idea.
After being accepted at a number of schools throughout the south, Derek Jones decided to attend Xavier University of New Orleans. He was just starting his first week at college when news of an approaching hurricane broke. Unlike the other students, Jones didn't panic. Growing up in West Palm Beach, Fla. he was familiar with tropical storms. But after awhile he realized this hurricane was different. Jones was fortunate to get on the last Greyhound out of town to Atlanta before Katrina hit.
When he found out XULA would not reopen until January, Jones quickly enrolled at Georgia State because he wanted to keep his momentum. In the meantime, Yolanda, Jones' mother, began contacting other universities to see if they were aiding any students affected by Katrina. "We were looking for a school that would take him in immediately. After all of our phone calls, the university that accepted Derek without hesitation was Cincinnati's Xavier."
Jones had attended public schools all his life and was accustomed to large classes. He quickly realized he liked Xavier's small class sizes and the close attention. On his first week, he attended a picnic on the Greenspace for Katrina transfers and was amazed at the amount of support he received from other students.
After Katrina, Jones realized that a college education is something not to take for granted. It was difficult for his parents to finance his stay at Xavier, but they made it happen. "I'm really happy I had the opportunity to be here," Jones says. "The people are really friendly and the community is really strong. It's helped me develop a strong bond."
Jones plans to continue his education in Atlanta at Creative Circus, a portfolio school, where he'll be matched with a mentor in advertising. Jones' parents, Derek Sr. and Yolanda, offer this advice to parents, "Don't be afraid to allow your children to grow and experience life on their own. Choose thoughtfully and pray!"
Living in the Virgin Islands, Karan Motiani didn't have the chance to visit campuses during his college search. Instead, he did most searching online. Knowing he wanted to go to medical school, Motiani chose Loyola because of its dual admission program with Tulane University and because of the relatively short trip — it's only six hours away from his hometown.
It was just four days into his first semester, when students were ordered to evacuate the Loyola campus. He didn't know what people were talking about when they said, "the levee was going." But he knew it was serious. Motiani grabbed his laptop and two changes of clothes, and met up with friends of the family. They then drove to Memphis, where his parents had a plane ticket waiting for him to fly back home.
Back in the Virgin Islands, Motiani's high school counselor started helping him search for a new college. Some refused him freshman status, only giving him the option of evening classes without room and board. "Xavier was the only school that said 'don't worry about the money – we've got you scheduled into a pre-med curriculum, just come to school," says Motiani.
Xavier was a little farther than he wanted to travel, but he immediately fell in love with it. "I felt more than welcome here," Motiani says. The campus quickly felt like a home away from home — small and intimate.
But with an almost full scholarship waiting for him at Loyola, Motiani thought his stay at Xavier would be short. It was Paul Calme, director of financial aid, who influenced him to stay for good. He was all packed for Loyola when Calme asked Motiati to come to his office. Having packed no coats, Karan ran from Brockman through the snow to meet him. Calme gave him the good news that Xavier would honor what Loyola had given him. "Paul Calme was the most helpful person I have ever met anywhere," says Motiani.
Settling in, Motiani became a student senator and vice president of the Southeast Asian Society at Xavier. He's now waiting to hear back from medical schools in Ohio. "I have become an Ohio resident and I really like it here," he says. Motiani's younger brother, Kabir, a Xavier sophomore followed in his footsteps and has his sights set on medical school as well. Their parents, Girdhar Kumar Motiani and Mala Motiani, couldn't be prouder.
Amadou Diop came to the U.S. from Dakar, Senegal with big dreams. It was August 2005, and he was just starting his first week of classes at the University of New Orleans. Everything seemed perfect. Then, Katrina hit. "I was in the elevator on my way to class, and saw that classes were canceled due to a hurricane." He quickly boarded a student bus to Baton Rouge. The normally two-hour trip took over 13 hours due to heavy traffic. When they got to Baton Rouge, everyone thought they would be able to go back to University of New Orleans within a few days. They were wrong.
When Diop realized that it would take months, he decided to look for a school in Ohio because his brother was at the University of Cincinnati. Diop received a transfer scholarship to Xavier, which cut his tuition to almost half. He returned to New Orleans to retrieve his clothes and belongings and headed north to Cincinnati.
Diop decided to stay at Xavier because he really likes Cincinnati. He is planning to graduate with a degree in chemistry. One day he hopes to earn his master's in chemical engineering, and eventually his PhD. He wants to return to his hometown of Dakar in the future.