From the moment anyone enters high school, the thought of being a senior remains constant until that special moment arises. I can remember my first day as a high school freshman and wishing I could fast forward through the next three years and be one of the senior leaders on campus. But when those three years were up for me and it was time to become one of those senior leaders, I never imagined that my senior class at Archbishop Rummel High School would impact more lives than we could ever imagine.
I think back to our final football practice before this problem child named “Katrina” was coming. Coach Jay Roth told us to do as our parents told us, to leave town if they wanted to leave and not to question them, and to stay in touch as best as possible. To this day Coach Roth is one of the most confident speakers I have ever heard. He has a charisma about himself that makes his thoughts seem to be written in stone, so when he addressed the team as we were dismissing that day, I could sense an uncertainty from Coach. I can remember thinking, if Coach Roth does not know what is happening, no one knows.
As Hurricane Katrina pummeled our great city of New Orleans, I foolishly thought only about myself. I was worried about my family home, my senior year, my football season, my car and everything else involved in my life. After a few days of horrific cell phone service, I received a call from Coach Roth asking if my family was safe and if everything was ok. I asked him when our next practice was and I remember him chuckling and saying “probably not for some time.” Immediately, I was furious about this “Katrina” messing up my life and forcing me to a different state, which had awful food and a foul-smelling hotel.
Next, my family received a phone message from Mr. Michael Scalco, the new principal, who was not sure when Archbishop Rummel would be able to open up as the school had some damage.
After being able to make it to Houma a few weeks after the hurricane hit, my parents enrolled me in Vandebilt Catholic High School where I stayed for four weeks. Everyone was extremely nice and considerate, but the entire time I just wanted to go back to my school, Archbishop Rummel.
Finally, I received another cell call from Coach Roth, who had been in constant contact with his team, and he said that Rummel was doing very well and if I would be able to get back soon. I excitedly told him ok and was told to be expecting a call from Mr. Joseph Serio, admissions director.
Mr. Serio called and was extremely excited to tell us that Rummel would be opening as soon as possible and the school planned on opening its doors to as many high school students as possible. He did not know all of the details but I could tell in his voice that this was something that would be very special.
After another very long week, I remember standing on my campus in my Rummel uniform with about 15 or so classmates watching parents with blank stares on their faces file into the cafeteria. It was standing room only as around 500 parents at the time gathered to learn that Rummel was going to open its campus in the afternoon to other students from area schools which would later become known as Archbishop Rummel Transition School or Rummel T.
As time passed, students from Mount Carmel, Ursuline, Brother Martin, Holy Cross, Dominican as well as others came onto campus. Watching these students from all different school wearing all different uniforms made me realize how important the moment was and how the administration at Archbishop Rummel stepped up in that great time of need. When times are at their worst, the true character in people really comes out.
Led by its school leaders, Archbishop Rummel opened its doors to over 1500 students from all over the greater New Orleans area. Watching our self-less leaders give themselves more work so that all of these students could go to school was the greatest display of servant leadership I have ever witnessed. When I think of the famous saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” immediately I think of this scenario that played out my senior year.
Hurricane Katrina was hard on everyone. We were all impacted in some sort or fashion whether directly or indirectly: maybe a neighborhood was completely under water in Chalmette, a home just had some minor roof damage in Kenner, or the entire first floor of your friend’s house needed to be gutted in Metairie. It was in these times when human nature caused us to focus on ourselves and getting our own lives in order, but that is exactly the opposite of what Rummel did. Archbishop Rummel got back on its feet and reached out to everyone who needed a high school. Without any doubt, it was Archbishop Rummel High School’s finest hour.
To this day, people still say, “I’m sorry” when I tell them I graduated high school in 2006. That is funny to me, as I could not have asked for a better senior year. It is so easy to get caught up in the moment in our everyday life with our own issues and problems. That senior year, I learned that there is always someone who has it worse off than you and the best way to get through my own worriment is to help them get through theirs along the way.
For all these reason, I must thank Katrina for giving me the best senior year possible and a different outlook on life. I will be forever grateful.