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‘Grateful’ Bahamian students attend first day of classes at Hampton University

Posted at 7:01 PM, Sep 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-25 19:02:00-04

HAMPTON, Va. -- Their classrooms, dorms - and essentially their entire campus - have been destroyed.

Category 5 Hurricane Dorian took out the University of Bahamas - North Campus, leaving many students without a college.

The destruction prompted Hampton University President Dr. William Harvey to check on Dr. Rodney Smith, the current President of the University of the Bahamas and a former vice president at Hampton University.

"When I called, he said his north campus was obliterated, so I hung up and I thought about it and called him back the next day," Harvey told WTKR.

Harvey decided he wanted to help, giving nearly 50 students free room and board and tuition for one semester.

"One of the best things anyone can do is help someone," said Harvey.

On Monday, the students received a warm Virginia welcome as they flew into Richmond, 850 miles from home.

"None of us expected the level of damage that it made throughout Abaco and Grand Bahamas," said Kristoff Strachen, a junior who is now at Hampton University.

After orientation, Wednesday marked the first day of classes on the campus.

"It's been amazing. I'm honestly very, very grateful for this opportunity," said senior Avia Turner.

The campus the students are coming from is only one two-story building with about 600 students total - a far cry from Hampton University, where the enrollment is more than 4,000 students.

"The campus is completely different; this is basically the size of neighborhoods. Back home, our campus was just one building," said Strachen.

The Bahamian flag is now flying high at the Circle of Nations display on campus. The president of the university is hoping this gift will inspire the students to one day give a gift themselves.

"I hope when they go back to the Bahamas or whatever their future may hold, that they will pass it forward and help others," said Harvey.