HBCU Offers Displaced University of Bahamas Students a Free Semester

A historically Black university is offering a free semester to students in the Bahamas who have been affected by Hurricane Dorian.

Hampton University announced in a statement on September 5 that it is partnering with the University of the Bahamas to offer a free fall semester, including room and board at their Hampton, Virginia campus, to students who have been displaced by the storm.

"I think this agreement is something that can be helpful to a great number of students and families, and is part of something I've tried to do my entire career — helping people to achieve and meet their goals," Hampton University president Dr. William R. Harvey said in the statement.

Harvey and Dr. Rodney Smith, the president of the University of the Bahamas, came to an agreement that students from the University of the Bahamas can receive a semester of free tuition, room, and board and have the option to stay at Hampton University after the fall and pay standard tuition and fee rates.

Lawrence Rigby, an alumnus from Hampton University, praised the decision to allow displaced students to continue their education.

"Hampton has been the educational choice for many Bahamians over its long history. I am grateful to President Harvey and university leadership on this demonstration of kindness and humanity to my home in our time of need," said Rigby, who was the 2014-2015 Student Government Association president and is from Nassau, New Providence. "Young Bahamians from Abaco and Grand Bahama who are looking for the tools to rebuild their lives and our home will find them at Hampton."

The news comes just a few days after Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas during Labor Day weekend. The storm, which was a Category 5 hurricane when it landed on the Grand Bahama and Abaco islands, was recorded as one of the strongest hurricanes ever in the Atlantic Ocean. By September 3, the storm had reached up to 140 mph winds in the Bahamas with “extreme” flooding from up to 30 inches of rain, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The death toll from Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas has risen to 43, while hundreds are still missing, CNN reported.

"Literally hundreds, up to thousands, of people are still missing," Joy Jibrilu, director general of the country's tourism and aviation ministry, said, according to CNN.

Health minister Dr. Duane Sands told The New York Times that the death count “could be staggering,” saying there were four undertakers working on Abaco Island and he was not sure if the island would need more.

“We are embalming bodies so that we have more capacity as new bodies are brought in,” he told the publication. “We need to get coolers into Abaco and Grand Bahama, because we believe that we may not have the capacity to store the bodies.”

The US Coast Guard said it had rescued over 230 people as of September 7, and rescuers have sent small planes and helicopters to Bahamas’ northern islands to reach people that have been stranded.

"Our emergent priority is to get the critically wounded out and help the government of the Bahamas get the infrastructure back up so it's safe, sanitary and livable — at least on a temporary basis — for those folks," Captain James Passarelli of the US Coast Guard said. Celebrities have also been looking for ways to help the Bahamas following the hurricane. Singer Rihanna tweeted that she was going to help Bahamian people through the Clara Lionel Foundation, her organization which “supports and funds groundbreaking and effective education, health and emergency response programs around the world.”

"It truly breaks my heart to see the complete devastation that #HurricaneDorian is having on the Bahamas," Rihanna tweeted on September 2. "You are in our prayers and @ClaraLionelFdn is already figuring out how best we can help! #HurricaneDorian #Bahamas," she also said.

The Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF) announced that it is deploying an emergency grant to World Central Kitchen (WCK), a not-for-profit organization that provides meals following natural disasters. A second emergency grant will be donated to Direct Relief to support the organization’s medical aid efforts. Singer Lenny Kravitz also said he was helping those impacted by Hurricane Dorian by donating to organizations like WCK and Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE).

“Let’s help The Bahamas. I donated to National Association of the Bahamas, @coreresponse and @wckitchen. Details on how to help in my stories and my bio. #hurricanedorian #bahamasstrong,” the singer previously wrote on Instagram.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.