Dillard’s doors close; Simpson’s open

by Laura Dillavou

The first semester of college can be tough for anyone. But being forced out of the state and getting transplanted to a new school is something different.

For freshman Sona Sylve, one of Simpson’s newest students, this situation became a reality. Displaced by Hurricane Katrina, Sylve is finishing out her first semester at Simpson because her school, Dillard University in New Orleans, underwent extensive damage.

“It’s not that much of an extreme difference from Louisiana,” Sylve said. “And my transition to Simpson has been an easy one. The people are very friendly and are making my situation as comfortable as possible.”

After conducting Internet research to find colleges taking in students from the New Orleans area, Sylve settled on Simpson.

“I talked to a bunch of different schools,” Sylve said. “Simpson made me feel more welcome and offered me a better deal with a tuition exchange.”

Walter Lain, assistant dean of international and multicultural students, is pleased with Simpson’s involvement with students from the Hurricane area.

“The Dean of Students sent an e-mail to Dillard students inviting anyone to come up to Simpson and finish out the semester,” Lain said. “We agreed to keep all financial arrangements through Dillard and not charge them for additional housing or tuition.”

Though the costs of housing and tuition can be a burden, other factors such as a meal plan and books can rack up more charges. Tracy Pavon, assistant vice president and director for financial assistance, contacted the Simpson Guild to further accommodate Sylve.

“We’ve never had the opportunity to do something like this before, and we had the extra money, so of course we wanted to help,” said Becky Beaman, president of the Simpson Guild. “Our purpose is to raise money for student scholarships and help them out.”

With a donation of $500 for books, Sylve was well on her way to becoming a part of the Simpson community.

“I could see myself here,” Sylve said. “This is a temporary solution, and I’ll go back to Dillard, but for right now, this is OK. Everyone has helped make my transition easy.”

Given her rapid departure from New Orleans just one day before Hurricane Katrina hit, Sylve considers herself and her family fortunate.

“We drove to a town about five hours away and stayed there,” Sylve said. “My mom, my grandma and four younger siblings are still there, but are thinking of going to Houston. Right now, my mom is out of work because she was a teacher in New Orleans. My dad still has his job though.”

Despite many obstacles, Lain feels Sylve is making the most of her situation and doing the best with what she has.

“I think she has been through a lot,” Lain said. “She is fitting in well for someone whose life is turned upside down. She is taking it as well as anyone could be expected to.”

The accounting major said things are coming together, slowly.

“It [the Hurricane] has taken my life,” Sylve said. “What you know as a regular day isn’t that anymore. People had to make serious decisions and it has done such damage to so many lives.”

Sylve said while she misses her family and home, the devastation could be worse.

“The things I want can’t really be bought or be here,” Sylve said. “I’m stable as of now, but sometimes I have my moments. I wonder why – why now, why me. I realize I can’t change that, so I need to move forward. I’m dealing, day by day.”