A little over a week after Hurricane Dorian made landfall and ravaged parts of the Bahamas, students at Florida Memorial University joined together for a prayer service.
Brea Rolle sat in the front pew with her head bowed.
Rolle is from Grand Bahama, one of the areas hardest hit by hurricane Dorian. Her mom sent her a message on Whatsapp saying she’s ok, followed by solemn news— their home is completely destroyed.
“We really have nothing to go back to,” said Rolle. “I couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t stop praying. My family members sent in pictures and of course that sent me downhill.”
At Florida Memorial University, where 15 percent of the student body are international Bahamian students, many of the young people are balancing worries about the well being of family members -some of whom are still missing- and the possibility that they may not be able to continue their studies in the U.S. because their loved ones who they depend on financially are out of work and rebuilding from scratch.
A psychology major, Rolle is in her last year at the private historically black university where tuition is $12,500 a year, not including housing, food and other costs.
At a recent listening session where Bahamian students got together with school officials to talk about how to better address their needs after the catastrophic hurricane, several students said their new reality is that paying for school will likely become a financial hardship. Most international students are in the U.S. on visas that restrict their ability to work.
“Where' s the funds going to come from for us to make sure we can come back to school and finish because we don’t have it,” said Rolle.
Florida Memorial school officials said they are putting together a list of Bahamian students to assess how many students will need financial help.
Provost Adrienne Cooper said the university plans on working with students who have trouble paying tuition and is reaching out to donors "to help sponsor scholarships for the students so that they can remain in school."
"Some of them are in their last year and last semester and we would hate for that to be a barrier to be able to graduate,” said Cooper.
Khalil Dean, 18, is from Nassau and that area didn’t see as much damage from Dorian, but he said his parents and grandmother in the Bahamian capital will have to take in aunts and uncles from Abacos who were left homeless.
Dean says he knows his family will have to pitch in financially to help each other out and he’s trying not to focus too much on what that means for him and his schooling because the priority right now is his loved ones in the Bahamas.
“I think the biggest challenge for us is helping our families because we don’t how we’re going to help them in this situation,” he said. “As simple as giving them a hug would mean so much.”