Raven Harper | Staff Writer
Photo Credit: Taylor Gravesande
Shortly after Hurricane Dorian swept across the islands of the Bahamas, destroying homes, lives and families, President William R. Harvey extended Hampton University’s campus to students from the University of the Bahamas. In an agreement with the North Campus of the University of the Bahamas, displaced students were offered free tuition and room and board for the 2019 fall semester.
At an orientation program Sept. 24 in the Student Center Ballroom, the new students were greeted by the Greer Dawson Wilson Student Leadership Program, administration and fellow peers. The HU Marching Force and Blue Thunder Cheerleading Team opened the ceremony, and Vice President of Administrative Services Dr. Barbara Inman officiated the program.
During the program, administration and faculty members congratulated the new students for having the brave spirits to take a huge leap, and President Harvey shared how this all began. After the hurricane, President Harvey reached out to the president of the University of the Bahamas to inquire about the state of the school and found out the North Campus was destroyed.
“Obviously, that touched my heart,” President Harvey said. “So, I thought about it overnight. Next morning, I called him back and told him that Hampton University would provide room and board, free tuition fees and other incidentals for any of the students from that North Campus.”
President Harvey discussed the amount of donations from $18 to $100,000 that will be used toward the new students’ fees and incidentals during their fall semester at HU.
D’neka Cunningham, a media and journalism student from Freeport, Bahamas, who lost friends, furniture and clothing in the hurricane, shared that when she first heard that Hampton was inviting students to their campus for a free semester, she thought it was a joke. She researched Hampton University and knew how expensive it was to attend.
Once she realized it was legit, her response was: “I gotta hop on this. This is a good opportunity!”
Chancellor and Provost Dr. Joann Haysbert explained how the registration process matched students’ University of The Bahamas courses with closely related courses at HU. Each school’s dean helped to create the students’ schedules and professors will devote office hours to ensure a smooth transition as the students begin their classes.
The university also will offer the students support through counseling services, safety and assistance during their time at Hampton.
President of the Caribbean Pre-Alumni Council Cornelia Waugh explained that CPAC is her home away from home and welcomed the Bahamian students to meetings whenever they are feeling homesick, want to listen to Caribbean music or eat food from their homeland.
Cunningham and other Bahamian students were apprehensive about the prejudices people may have when they arrived. As Cunningham got used to the adjustments, she said, “So far, everyone is pretty welcoming. I noticed from walking around, everybody just minds their business and is just going, going, going.”
By the end of the orientation, the students were reassured they were welcomed through the singing of the Alma Mater, reciting the benediction and playing of Kirk Franklin’s Brighter Day. Students and faculty should be sure to lend a hand or a minute of their time to further welcome the new students and make them feel at home at their new “Home by the Sea.”