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Campus reaches out to help hurricane victims

September 30, 2005

Photo of a student donating bloodSusan Waldman's Abnormal Psychology class focuses on helping people in need so when Hurricane Katrina struck, a discussion on how to reach out seemed only natural. During a brief class break the Psychology Lecturer set out a box of cookies and an empty bag so her students could "give and take." Students gave $325; Waldman matched the funds.

The class decided to divide the $650 dollars evenly between Save the Children and the American Red Cross. "I was so overwhelmed by their quick and heartfelt response … truly wonderful to see our students responding like this," Waldman wrote via e-mail. "I do not believe the caring and involvement will stop there."

It hasn't. Across campus students, faculty and staff are doing what they can to help New Orleaneans and others scattered throughout the Gulf coast region. SFSU's residence halls are one of many places abuzz with efforts to help the displaced. Residence Hall Advisors are rallying students to donate time at San Francisco's downtown Red Cross chapter as well as leading them in a quilt-making workshop. One residence hall coin drive raised nearly $100 for victims while other students who live on campus sold root beer floats to the tune of $500.

Freshman Michelle Matheus was also moved to action by reports of the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. "I want to help, to try to make a difference, to save lives," she said. Matheus took time between classes to donate blood during a two-day drive sponsored by Student Health Service and the Student Health Advisory Committee. Blood Centers of the Pacific, which collected the blood, will work with its sister organizations in hurricane-affected areas to get donations to the people who need it most. The response was overwhelming -- at about 3:30 p.m. some of the people waiting in long lines were asked to give blood another day.

Some of the people SFSU has helped are right here on campus. Marcia Holmes, a native of Louisiana, was surprised and delighted when her fellow second-year nursing students presented her with $1,000 from the SFSU Nursing Students Association. Holmes has already passed the gift to her parents, grandparents and an aunt and uncle, all of whom lost their homes in New Orleans.

The University is offering students whose academic lives were disrupted by Hurricane Katrina a chance to continue with their education, enrolling even without transcripts and paying only in-state fees. To date, seven evacuees from the Gulf Coast area have enrolled in classes on campus.

People continue to get creative in their humanitarian efforts. Art Professors Jeff Downing and Sylvia Walters gathered and boxed up art supplies for evacuees being housed and educated in shelters throughout the Baton Rouge area.

Nina Jo Smith, coordinator of the University's S.A.F.E. Place (sexual abuse free environment) hosted an open-mike fundraiser at The Depot in the Cesar Chavez Student Center. The event raised funds for the Family Violence Prevention Fund's Katrina Relief Fund, which aids three Louisiana and Mississippi domestic violence and rape crisis centers. She commented that her father's work inspires her to help people. "My dad was a lineman for a power company. He would have been one of those people going out and working to give power back to people. I grew up around that, with him going out in the middle of the night to help people."

Creative writing student Antonio Fernandez is gathering young people's poetry submissions and preparing to put them on a Web site "so that kids between the ages of six and 18 can share their thoughts through poetry about the recent disaster." Via e-mail, Fernandez writes, "I believe that poetry is a great healer and … that it is important for kids to write out their feelings, especially in times of high anxiety and stress." He can be reached at

This article is the first in a series of updates on some of the many ways San Francisco State is reaching out to help those displaced by Gulf coast hurricanes. For more information, see the Hurricane Katrina Response Web Site.

-- Adrianne Bee
Photo by Mitch Wong


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Last modified September 30, 2005 by University Communications