By Holly Desrosier
This is Part III in a series of stories focusing on the impact Hurricane Florence has had on Craven Community College’s faculty, staff, students and the community. Some student accounts and names have been edited for length and privacy.
Craven Community College (Craven CC) is continuing recovery efforts after Hurricane Florence wreaked havoc across the state last month. The Craven CC Foundation recently implemented a Student Engagement Fund to assist students affected by the storm.
Many Craven CC students face the uphill battles of relocation, insurance claims, taking care of families and returning to school. The Foundation recently released a form for students in need of funds or items due to storm damage and loss. Students are given the opportunity to explain their situations and request specific school supplies or financial assistance through the Student Engagement Fund or the Finish Line Grant.
Individual student accounts detail devastating scenes and harrowing realities. Although some situations are more dire than others, the Foundation has devoted time and resources to assist each one.
“During Hurricane Florence, our home flooded and we lost everything, including our car,” said Riley Batchelor, a Craven CC student working toward an associate in engineering degree. “I may even have to take a break from school in order to work more to catch up on our expenses.”
Among the items lost were all of Riley’s school supplies, including her laptop. The Foundation recently stepped in to help by giving Riley a new laptop so she can continue her studies without interruption or added financial burden.
Brianna Johnson, a first-year student at Craven CC, recently received a brand new bicycle from the Foundation. She and her family lost their home, both vehicles and all their belongings in the storm, and Brianna was extremely appreciative of the gift. Since getting the bike, Brianna has ridden it to the New Bern Campus to attend classes.
“It really showed that they cared,” she said. “It showed that the college is a real community and cares about their students’ success.”
Many residents face the harsh reality of having to pay for expenses out of pocket. “We do have homeowners insurance, but only for wind, fire and breaking and entering, but not for flood damage,” said Heather, another Craven CC student.
Others are also caregivers for children, grandchildren and other loved ones. Student Maryellen had extensive damage that forced her family to leave town.
“Due to the extent of the damage, mold growth and airborne mold, my two children and I have been relocated to a hotel in Washington, NC and must make the daily trip to New Bern for school attendance,” she detailed.
Chelsea, a student in a similar situation, has also requested assistance from the Foundation. She is in need of basic household items, furniture and clothing for her family.
“Right now we are placed in Newport, where we are living in a two-bedroom apartment with three adults and 11 children,” she said. “I have to drive to New Bern every morning for me and my children to attend school and work. I also lost my car.”
Another student, Teamicka, was forced to evacuate with her children, losing her laptop in the process.
“I’m a single mother of three and my laptop helps me to do schoolwork as needed without leaving home or even while I’m on the go,” she said.
Craven CC student Shanyia, suffered from a similar situation. Upon returning home from evacuating, she and her family discovered a depressing scene.
“We opened the door to the house and all you could smell was mold,” she recounted. “It was so strong that when you opened the door you felt like you were about to pass out and you got a bad headache.”
She went on to detail mold growing all over the house and the ceiling caving in. After losing her job and the home she has lived in most of her life, Shanyia is one of many students counting on the Foundation to make one aspect of their lives stable: their college education.
“Now all I can do is pray and hope for the best and keep going,” she said.
Even when they are in the midst of a crisis, Craven CC students have shown incredible resilience and a strong resolve to continue their academic journeys. Several students, including Yahna, lost everything but still returned to classes when the college reopened two weeks ago.
“I am at this time homeless, but I very much want to finish my time here at Craven Community College,” said Yahna.
Although heartbreaking, these students’ stories show their strength and determination to continue their educational pursuit even in the face of extreme adversity. Craven CC remains committed to helping every student receive a quality education no matter what circumstances stand in the way.
Donations for the Student Engagement Fund are much needed and greatly appreciated. For more information, contact the Foundation office at 252-638-7351.