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Special Topic: Katrina's Classroom

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Katrina's Classroom: Financial lessons from a hurricane

images of Nick, Jacquelyn, and JamieImagine being a teenager: The school year is about to begin, and you're looking forward to getting together with friends you didn't see over the summer. Then Hurricane Katrina strikes the Gulf Coast, and nothing is the same. After evacuating, your family eventually returns home, hoping to make a fresh start.

To capture the challenges families faced before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta has produced Katrina's Classroom, a program that presents the hurricane experience through the eyes of three teenagers and their families as they tell their stories.

A DVD shows the financial challenges and lessons learned when these teens evacuated their homes. The DVD, accompanied by a curriculum with standards-based lesson plans, helps teach key concepts in emergency financial preparedness, which is important to all students and their families.

Related Links
Order form for Katrina package

Keeping track of financial documents and having access to money
In the first story, "In the Aftermath," Nick, a high school junior, evacuated with his extended family to Atlanta, taking with them all the important documents they would need to help them start on the road to recovery. Nick's family had access to their money throughout the ordeal because of their banking relationships. When they returned home, reestablishing their base was not easy, and life was different but, as Nick says in the video, he was happy to be back in New Orleans.

Emergency savings and using credit wisely
Fourteen-year-old middle schooler Jacquelyn had nine feet of water in her house in Biloxi, Miss. Her prized doll collection was lost in the storm. Her clothes were gone. Jacquelyn and her family evacuated to Starkville, Miss., where her family had to use credit cards for food and all their necessities while her stepdad rebuilt their severely damaged home.

Starting fresh, her family returned to Biloxi, Jacquelyn started back to school, and she looked forward to participating in her school's traditional Beauty and Beau pageant. Jacquelyn's story, "A Fresh Start," shows the financial challenges her family faced, including learning the importance of having a significant rainy day emergency fund.

Budgeting and ensuring future income through education
Jaime was looking forward to her senior year in high school. She worked the prior summer, saved her money, and budgeted to buy new clothes for college. When Hurricane Katrina hit, Jaime and her family evacuated to Houston, Texas. Jaime made a point to take with her the clothes she had just purchased.

Less than a year later, Jaime is a freshman at Xavier University in New Orleans. As a result of her hurricane experiences, she is armed with the lessons she learned. In "Back to School," Jaime balances her checkbook and uses her ATM card wisely as she budgets for her college expenses. She takes nothing for granted.

To order the free DVD and curriculum package, see the related link. And check out our calendar of events to learn about presentations at forthcoming teacher workshops on how to use the package in the classroom.

By Gail Psilos, public information manager, New Orleans Branch