Pearl River Community College rebuilds facilities lost in Katrina

By: Karrie Leggett

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM)- To say that Pearl River Community College's recovery from Hurricane Katrina has been a long road is an understatement, and President Dr. William Lewis was there every step of the way.

"Unfortunately Pearl River Community College was the most devastated of all the community colleges in the state after Katrina. The damages particularly to the poplarville campus was substantial. Many buildings destroyed. We had a lot of devastation here and it has been a long road for recovery," said Lewis.

And the difficulties did not end there. Finding resources to rebuild the campus was a struggle.

"We had an extensive battle with the insurance company to get the kind of settlement that we felt like was reasonable and appropriate, that took four years and since that time we have been negotiating and working with FEMA to try to get the additional funds that we need to rebuild," said Lewis.

Five years later and Pearl River Community College is still experiencing how Hurricane Katrina changed them and that change may be for the better, with construction finally beginning on buildings to replace those that were lost in the storm.

"One a men's housing facility that will be rebuilt and hopefully open this time next year with 114 new beds. Then, our Moody Hall facility which is by the way the oldest instructional building on any two year college campus in the state. Again that is coming out of the ground this week and we're just real excited," said Lewis.

The community college has made great strides towards bouncing back from Katrina, but there is still work to be done.

"The storm did a lot of damage here and we are still struggling with that damage but on the other side of the fence when these building projects and construction projects are completed in the next few years it will give a whole new look to our campus. Give us some resources that we did not have before available to the college and we'll make a real showplace for our institution," said Lewis.

A showplace proving that a road to recovery may be slow at times...but successful.