An update from Stevie Rae, a junior communications studies major with a minor in psychology:

I’m sitting here in our beautiful beach house in Grand Isle, LA, where we finally have a chance to let these past few days sink in. In the last three days I have learned so much more than I would have learned in an entire semester of class. There’s something about being able to see it for myself and to be able to listen to these people and hear their stories that can’t be matched in a classroom.

I have not only developed a love for the city of New Orleans and the optimism of its people, but I have also developed a much greater understanding of what is really going on in the Gulf and how the people who have lived here for years and even decades feel about how the BP oil spill is being handled and what their thoughts are for the future.

We have been spending a lot of time simply soaking up the culture, and the overwhelming theme I have noticed is the optimism of the people here. You would think under such devastating circumstances it would be easy for people to focus on the negative, but I’ve learned that after going through so much from hurricanes and natural disasters, they have this sense of being able to come back from it. They have an attitude of “life goes on” – and there’s always a silver lining. These people are strong, motivated and optimistic about their future. Sometimes that’s the most important part of recovering after the disasters they have been through.

NO-fountain.jpg I think part of our job as students in keeping the story alive is to spread the word. To make people aware of what is going on down here and to inform them of the facts. It’s hard for people to understand the impact of disasters such as Katrina and the BP oil spill unless they come down and see it for themselves. But through our blogs, Facebook posts, pictures and videos we can help bring the coast to the rest of the country.

Can’t wait to help make a difference and keep the story alive.

In photo: While taking a walk in Audubon Park, we came across a rainbow in the fountain. I think this photo illustrates the attitude of the people here. There’s always a rainbow at the end of a storm.