HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Dozens of Hampton University students from the Bahamas received some welcome news.
They arrived in September after Hurricane Dorian badly damaged the University of the Bahamas North Campus.
They were originally staying for one semester, but now the plan has changed.
Hampton University is offering all of those displaced students another free semester.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Kristoff Strachan. “It’s a burden, one less thing to worry about. The burden’s lifted.”
Grateful beyond words – that’s how more than 40 Bahamian students turned Hampton University pirates are feeling after getting a huge treat on Halloween.
That’s when Dr. William R. Harvey told the students they’d be getting another semester of room, board, and tuition free of charge.
“Everybody was applauding and almost in tears, myself included,” said Bahamian student Avia Turner.
Pamela Moolenaar-Wirsiy, chair of the Hampton University Bahamian task force, said students were elated.
“The first thing they said to Dr. Harvey was ‘how can we thank you’ and he said ‘you know, I don’t ask for anything in return. I just expect that you do well and you pay it forward when the time comes,” Moolenaar-Wirsiy said.
It’s been a roller coaster of emotions for the group as they adjust to a new home away from home.
“It’s crazy how survivors’ guilt can be,” Turner said. “Things are still a bit slow but we’re rebuilding slowly but surely.”
Since moving to Hampton Roads, Turner and Strachan said there was a bit of a culture shock, but overall, they’re adjusting well.
The students tell 10 On Your Side the generosity from the school and the community is humbling.
“It’s just been really overwhelming, and I don’t think we can say thank you enough, not just to Hampton University, but to everybody that’s shown some sort of support,” Strachan said.
They’re excited to extend their time at the university, but for now they’re looking forward to heading back to the islands for the holidays.
“I miss my family of course and I just want to go home and get some food,” Turner said.
If you’re interested in helping these students, you can find contact the Hampton University Office of Development at 757-727-5002.