Published: September 14, 2005
Although Hurricane Katrina merely added insult to PJC’s injuries from Ivan and Dennis, neighboring colleges in Mississippi and Louisiana were less fortunate. As a result, several campus groups and employees have decided to join in relief efforts.
Plans are underway to house evacuees, to offer free tuition and books to displaced students and to gather much needed basic supplies, clothing and food. In addition, PJC also has become the temporary headquarters for Red Cross operations.
Just five days after the hurricane, PJC, along with other Florida colleges, opened enrollment to disaster victims who had been attending colleges in the affected states.
“We’re expecting many schools to be closed for the rest of the year,” said Dr. James Martin, vice president of student affairs. “The governor has asked us to be as liberal as we can with these students in school. We’ve expedited the admissions process and are working with the (Pensacola Junior College) Foundation to pay for tuition.
“The main goal is to get the students moving and settled in their classes.”
To date, 25 students have enrolled at the college.
With the realization that the disaster victims have come to the school on short notice, PJC is attempting to attend to the residential aspect of their lives as well.
Emily Mahood, coordinator for outreach and community service, has established a growing list of residences that are available for the transferring students.
“Aside from getting them set up academically, I do have running list of resources in the area, and a housing list,” she said. “People are sending information about rentals and homes for sale. Staff are referring students to me should that be one of their needs.”
Mahood said about 25 employees have offered rooms in their homes for victims of the hurricane.
“The faculty has been really flexible and responsive to these students,” Martin said. “When you get your life turned upside down, you need some sort of stability.”
Several donations already have been made in support of relief efforts.
As part of its semiannual campus blood drive on Sept. 6, The American Red Cross committed to sending blood donations to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Approximately 22 pints were collected in the effort.
The college also is involved with various efforts in sending supplies out to devastated areas.
“Outside of the classroom, there are several projects on campus,” Mahood said. “The Education Club and Phi Theta Kappa are collecting baby goods, and we’re also doing toy drives.”
The PJC Social Sciences club is starting a food drive, passing off the collected goods to the Manna Food Bank to be given to the hurricane victims.
Moreover, PJC has allowed the Red Cross to temporarily move its headquarters to the Baroco Center, providing space in which to operate relief efforts. Volunteers are needed in countless positions.
For those who are unable to participate in the larger events, the importance of being involved, even on the smallest level, is crucial.
“If you’ve got someone in your class that needs help, do what you can, try to be as helpful as possible,” Mahood said.
Indeed, Mahood’s quote that ends each of her e-mails, taken from Dr. Seuss’ the Lorax, sums up the efforts best –
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. No, its not.”