SUNO graduates look back on challenges overcome


Posted on May 13, 2012 at 11:04 AM

Updated Sunday, May 13 at 11:22 AM

Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
Email: | Twitter: @mhernandezwwl

NEW ORLEANS -- For SUNO's newest graduates, it's been a long journey on the road to graduation -- none more so than for Estelle Adams Bolden.

At age 72, she was one of the oldest graduates on Saturday.

"I decided to go back because my mom kept pressing me and I told her I would," she said, "and after she passed away, there wasn't an obstacle for me to go back."

Other obstacles, though, remain at SUNO. Nearly seven years after Hurricane Katrina flooded the campus with up to 11 feet of water, some buildings have yet to reopen -- including the library.

"One thing about not having a library is that we had to make due with what we had," said Langston Terrel, SUNO Student Government Association president, who is part of the class of 2012.

"I've been advocating for the conditions on campus with other students," said Susan Edgerson, who received a masters degree in social work from SUNO on Saturday.

Those conditions should start to get better, according to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who was SUNO's commencement speaker.

"This campus is an open door we never want to see close," she told the graduates. "We have made a point to focus on improving collaboration, communication, to help break through log jams, to cut red tape."

So far, FEMA has obligated $120 million to the SUNO campus. The money will go towards, among other things, renovating the library and building four new buildings in the next four years-- for the school of social work, arts and humanities, education and sciences.

"Through the efforts of FEMA, we're proud of having $120 million obligated to the university, due to their efforts," he said. "So, it's a matter of the state working with us to build the new buildings."

It is money that can't seem to come soon enough for the university's newest alumni and for those who hope to follow in their footsteps.

"The funds need to move expeditiously because as long as our buildings continue to sit, we continue to struggle," Terrel said. "But the resiliency of our students will always keep our doors open."