Graduations finalize up and down year for evacuees

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 24, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Karlos Ferbos never expected his high school transcript to even mention the word Natchez.

But come Friday, Natchez High School will become the finishing touch to 12 years of hard work.

Ferbos started his senior year of nine months ago at Eleanor McMain School in New Orleans. He attended a week&8217;s worth of classes and played in one football game before Katrina.

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&8220;All of a sudden, it&8217;s gone,&8221; Ferbos said. &8220;I was just on the top, and the hurricane came.&8221;

Ferbos, 17, and family evacuated to Natchez and he started school soon after at Natchez High.

&8220;Every paragraph I start off I say, &8216;I never thought I&8217;d graduate from Natchez High School in my life,&8217;&8221; Ferbos said.

But that&8217;s exactly what will happen Friday night.

&8220;It&8217;s a real changing experience &8212; New Orleans to Natchez,&8221; Ferbos said. &8220;It&8217;s city to country. The extracurricular activities are different.&8221;

But he&8217;s managed to fit in pretty well by playing football and baseball.

&8220;Natchez High School accepted me and treated me right,&8221; he said. &8220;I&8217;ll miss Natchez High.&8221;

He said he&8217;ll miss football, dances, baseball and girls, but he&8217;s not moving too far away. Ferbos plans to start school at Alcorn State University next year, where he&8217;ll play baseball.

Before Katrina, Alcorn wasn&8217;t in the plan either.

Ferbos is one of about five Katrina evacuees who will receive diplomas from NHS this week, but for friend Josh Gatlin, the diploma was no sure thing.

&8220;At first I thought I wouldn&8217;t graduate,&8221; he said. &8220;But I took the state test and passed it.

&8220;From seventh- through 12th-grade I had to struggle.&8221;

And classes got a little harder at Natchez High, Gatlin said. Teachers expected more out of him, and the work was more closely monitored, he said.

&8220;I was almost crying because I thought I wouldn&8217;t graduate,&8221; he said.

But now he&8217;s promising not to cry at Friday&8217;s ceremonies when family from New Orleans comes to town to celebrate.

In the fall, Gatlin, 18, is headed to Tuskegee University in Alabama on a football scholarship.

Gatlin and Ferbos didn&8217;t plan on Natchez, but recent Vidalia High graduate Paul Sellers made a point of planning against the Miss-Lou.

New Orleans-born and raised, Sellers was familiar with Vidalia because his dad lived there.

&8220;I hated it,&8221; Sellers said. &8220;I said I wouldn&8217;t come up here.&8221;

But Katrina changed that.

Sellers and his 2-year-old son Travon came to town to stay with his father, and Paul ended up at Vidalia High.

&8220;It&8217;s smaller, like a junior high,&8221; Sellers said. &8220;I miss not seeing my people.&8221;

And Travon had to make major adjustments too after he moved away from aunts and family members who spoiled him, Sellers said.

Sellers&8217; New Orleans school hasn&8217;t reopened, and many of his friends dropped out of school entirely, he said.

But that wasn&8217;t an option for him. Sellers, 19, has worked at the Natchez movie theater since he moved to town, and now he plans to head to Baton Rouge Community College, find another job and work toward a degree. He plans to study to be a pharmacist technician or a certified nurse assistant.

Sunday will be his last day in the Miss-Lou.