Sep 082005
Authors: Brandon Lowrey, Jennifer Utter

New Orleans Mayor Ralph Nagin was on television urging everyone to evacuate the city days before Hurricane Katrina hit. It was nothing new, said former University of New Orleans senior Kyle Gorjanc.

She packed only a few belongings. After Hurricane Ivan, Gorjanc expected something routine, she said: "Throw your stuff in the car and come back three days later."

"I didn't think it was a big deal," Gorjanc said. "I don't think anybody did….We left so much behind, we wouldn't have left if we'd have known."

She and her fiance left New Orleans for Houston because they could. Unlike many of the city's impoverished residents, they had a car and family members offering places to stay outside the threatened city.

Gorjanc is one of about two-dozen students from Hurricane-ravaged areas who have been granted late admittance to CSU. Her home might be underwater. But if her neighborhood near the French Quarter stayed dry, she said, it would likely be a prime target for looters or a temporary home for fleeing residents and wildlife.

With the entire country working to help the victims in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, CSU has opened its doors to students displaced from their colleges and universities along the Gulf Coast.

"We have extended an offer to admit students displaced from Tulane and other southern universities that have been hit hard by this disaster," CSU President Larry Penley wrote in an e-mail to students.

Many of the students wanting to attend CSU have been seeking help with Student Financial Services (SFS) about the costs of attendance.

"Some students are having a hard time (financially) and are asking us to help solve their financial problems," said Sandy Calhoun, director of SFS. "We are dealing with all the problems on an individual basis."

With most of New Orleans completely shut down, it is impossible for SFS to obtain information about scholarships and other financial aid the students had at their previous college or university.

"Our main concern is trying to get these students help and enrolled," Calhoun said. "Then we will try to sort out what they had (financially) at their prior institution."

To help relieve some of the financial burden, CSU is offering resident tuition to the displaced students, said Paige Jacobson, academic advisor transfer orientation specialist for the Center for Advising and Student Achievement (CASA).

The university has been trying to help in other ways as well.

"(CSU) is allowing these students to add classes through this Friday and professors are helping them get caught up," Jacobson said.

In addition to enrolling students in classes, CASA has been helping them access other services such as medical insurance, housing and bus passes, Jacobson said.

This week, Gorjanc has been getting used to her new, if temporary, home. She misses the New Orleans culture, but said she was floored by Colorado's offerings.

"The minute I saw the mountains I loved it," she said.

Before coming to Colorado, she stayed with her fiance's mother in Houston, where she saw the grim news about her town on television. There Gorjanc recorded a message on her cell phone to put worried friends and relatives at ease.

Gorjanc tells callers the message is "post-Hurricane Katrina," adding that the couple escaped to Houston and were heading to Colorado.

She's hoping to graduate this semester, but laments the sad state of her hometown and the residents affected by the hurricane.

"You could sit at home and let your mom baby you, be sad, watch the news all day and let it destroy you," Gorjanc said, "Or you could make it a building block for your life."

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