WRKF
5:42 am
Mon March 24, 2014

First Bell: It Took a Hurricane to Get this Student Reading

Originally published on Sun March 30, 2014 8:25 pm

The First Bell series is a growing collection of stories from students, parents, and educators about pivotal experiences in education. To tell your story, email amy@wrkf.org with "My First Bell" in the subject line or tweet with the hashtag #MyFirstBell.

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Vasser was not a good student in 2005.

When Hurricane Katrina forced him to move out of New Orleans and transfer to Catholic High in Baton Rouge, he had to turn it around.


I was enrolled as an 8th-grader at Brother Martin High School in New Orleans for less than a week before the hurricane hit. I had spent the summer playing computer games instead of reading my summer reading books for English class so I was panicking the first week of school because the tests were the next week.

Well, as luck would have it, or rather not, it was devastating.

Brother Martin was invited to reopen on Catholic High School’s campus in Baton Rouge because we’re both Brothers of the Sacred Heart schools. Brother Martin and Catholic High are run by the same people so when my parents enrolled me there we thought it would be the same sort of learning environment. This was so much so not the case that I got into quite a lot of trouble my first year there, being sent to the disciplinarian’s office three times before Christmas. My classmates and teachers thought I was crude and unintelligent.

At Brother Martin the environment was very lax. My teachers cursed and I myself had been in at least two fights in the few months I was there. 

Also at Brother Martin my math teacher would crumple up my doodles in my notebook if I wasn’t paying attention in class. But at Catholic High School, they put them up on the chalkboard like a mother does with her child’s macaroni art when they’re five. So I can understand my new classmates and my teachers thinking very little of me when I arrived unpolished at the gates of Catholic High my freshman year.

I didn’t make many friends that year and wound up spending my lunch hour in the back of the library reading. I never again wanted to be behind my classmates in that regard so I would close my eyes, grab a random book off the shelf behind me or to my sides and read it all the way through before repeating the process again.

And through my studies, my own newly-found commitment to reading in my so-called “cave” that was the school library, foregoing social interaction and ergo confrontation, allowed me to emerge anew with greatly improved upon affability.

I found my motivation to read through my experiences that year. Whereas previously I had loathed reading so much so that I risked an automatic bad grade or the temptation of cheating to avert such an outcome, I was now reading up all the books in the library I could get my hands on. I excelled in my English classes and even helped out my classmates that had trouble.

Being a Political Science senior I have to read an ungodly amount by historical and contemporary figures.

I got a lot of exposure to that from my times in the library back in high school.

So I think the Brothers succeeded in their mission, and I’m really thankful for that.

Vasser graduated from the Brothers of the Sacred Heart school Catholic High in 2010, and is currently a Political Science senior at LSU. He told his story to his fiancé and LSU classmate Alix Landriault.

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The First Bell series is a growing collection of stories from students, parents, and educators about pivotal experiences in education. To tell your story, email amy@wrkf.org with "My First Bell" in the subject liner or tweet with the hashtag #MyFirstBell.

Copyright 2014 WRKF-FM. To see more, visit http://www.wrkf.org.

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