Katrina girls

Alece Dauzart, left, and Jasmine McDaniel plan out the weekend’s activities following graduation practice at the high school. The two Louisiana natives were brought to Rockwall following Hurricane Katrina’s devastating impact on New Orleans.

High School graduation is a time of capping off memories with, for many, life-long schoolmates.

For two graduates who walked across the stage last Friday night, it was an end to an education in a place far away from home.

Displaced by the effects of Hurricane Katrina, Alece Marie Dauzart and Jasmine Berlisha McDaniel were forced to finish out their high school days in Rockwall.

They accepted their Louisiana diplomas along with the graduating class of Rockwall High School, as their home schools are still not open for education.

McDaniel, a native of the Algiers neighborhood in east New Orleans, L.A. was a student at L.B. Landry High School. Dauzart was looking forward to her final year at Marion Abramson Senior High School.

When Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast in late August of last year, the high school careers of both students took a sharp last-minute turn.

The two have still not had much of an opportunity to see what’s left of their old neighborhoods.

“I went back at 4 o’clock in the morning to get my clothes, but that was it,” McDaniel said. “I didn’t stay. That was back after Christmas, in January.”

“I went back last weekend,” Dauzart said. “Then the first time I went was back in February. My house is torn up. It has mold stains all over the whole house.”

The two said that their time here has had its ups and downs, and that their adoptive community can be somewhat inconsistent in its sense of hospitality.

“I like it a little bit, because I like the (living environment) and some of the people,” Dauzart said. “Some of them are real nice. Some of them are very inconsiderate.

“We’re just not used to this. We’re used to people that if you need help, they help. If you pass somebody, you’ll say ‘excuse me.’ A lot of people here have very good manners, but lot are very inconsiderate.”

“I just like it because I have a boyfriend,” laughed McDaniel. “On June 7 we will be dating eight months.”

With a loss of home turf, the students kept their minds focused on their main goal - graduating on time.

“When I first came here I didn’t want to participate in anything,” Dauzart said. “I just wanted to focus on my schoolwork and make sure I graduate, because mentally a lot of stuff changed a whole lot - as a person.

“Because it’s like, you’re in a different environment. You’re not with your family. You’re not with your friends. Your focus is kind of off. So I just tried not to do other things, and just focus on my work. It’s hard...it’s hard.”

For future plans, one longs to go back while the other has found a new home in Texas.

“I’m going back,” Dauzart said. “I’m going to college in Baton Rouge at Southern University.”

McDaniel, however, is sticking closer to the Big D. She plans to attend the Art Institute of Dallas.

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