In the weeks preceding August 29th, 2015, camera crews and journalists from all over the world came to New Orleans in hopes of capturing something insightful or revealing about the state of the city at the ten-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Much of what they captured resembled what had been written and aired about New Orleans during the past ten years: that New Orleans is a unique place; that the people here and in surrounding Gulf Coast communities are “resilient”; that much of the city came back stronger; and that much of the city never came back at all. Personal stories abounded, as the best journalists understand that these stories are often the most effective for providing that insight, and among the stories of musicians, business owners, home-owners, Mardi Gras Indians, chefs, and local legends big and small, stories of the “Katrina class,” those students whose education was disrupted but not derailed, featured prominently. Xavier University itself retold its own “Katrina story” and rightly celebrated its students who returned to Xavier to complete their education when the school reopened in January of 2006.
But the voices represented in this year’s Pathways , those of first-year college students, young adults, who were but children ten years ago, add a unique strand to the narrative thread. Though they may have told their stories before, here the stories are presented in the context of the beginning of their adult lives, examining their pasts now with the fresh insight of the world of ideas, as offered by a rich, liberal-education tradition. Not all of the essays here are about Katrina. Taking our cue from Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones , the fictionalized Katrina novel that served as this year’s common first-year reading, we at Pathways asked students to reflect on any unforeseen and unpreventable event that altered the path of their lives. The results are at once heartbreaking, touching, sweet, humorous, honest, and, above all, consistently filled with joyous hope and optimism for the future. We hope you enjoy reading the essays, these deeply personal stories, and are as moved by them as we were in compiling this special issue.
Pathways thanks The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for its support, as well as Xavier’s Center for Undergraduate Research and its director, Ja’Wanda S. Grant. Special thanks, too, to Xavier’s Freshman Seminar program and its director, Wendy Gaudin.
Editor in Chief, Jeremy Tuman
Student Editors, Ms. Ariana Dirige and Ms. Bianca Dirige
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