Long Beach Students Speak Out On Katrina's Impact

There were a lot of lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina.

And those lessons were heard loud and clear today at a special ceremony in Long Beach.

"What I learned from Hurricane Katrina" was the topic of speeches written by students in the Long Beach school district.

Out of 100 participants the top eight from first grade through eighth were honored Saturday at a "speech competition celebration."

"I learned that you should be grateful that you have a home. Because there are a lot of people who don't have homes now," said 3rd grade winner Janetta McFarland from Harper McCaughan Elementary.

Her proud mother looks on in amazement.

"Really I was just thinking OK get through the speech and do a good job without messing up. But I also thought she doesn't talk a lot so evidently she did take in what happened during the storm. So I am glad that she is aware of what is going on around her," said Janetta's mother Varita McFarland.

Long beach high school debate teacher Vivian Ward says that awareness is what made her realize the need for this competition.

"My goal has always been since I began teaching speech and debate to give high schoolers a voice. But what I realized after hurricane Katrina is it was not just high schoolers who needed a voice," said Ward.

A winner was chosen for every grade from 1st through 8th.

These insightful youths recalled their experiences during and after Katrina.

"We stayed up most of the night watching the news. That's when we realized this storm was different, very different," said one student reading aloud

"In the attic I felt like the Jews hiding from the Germans like in the Anne Frank books," said another student.

"Katrina also taught me that their truly is some good in the world," another student said.

"During the storm we lost our school and a lot of people helped us. I didn't think that so many people would help us," another student said.

"For sometime I realized that home really is where your heart is," explained another student.

2nd grade winner Maher Rahman gave some stellar advice.

"Hurricanes are dangerous. Anytime you hear that a hurricane is coming pack up and leave," said Rahman.

Ward says it is painfully evident that parents need to talk to their children.

Even though they are young, they are aware and should have a voice.

She plans on making this competition an annual event.