BY BEATRICE DUPUY
One year later, the colors green and black have a whole new meaning to six students attending Cooper City High School. On January 12, 2011, these six students chose green and black to signify the hope they have for their country of Haiti and to mourn for the lives lost after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti exactly one year ago.
The six students are some of the last of the 3,800 Haitian students who arrived in Florida after the earthquake rattled the stability of their lives. According to the Sun-Sentinel, the amount of Haitian students in state schools was cut down by half this year. CCHS previously had 11 Haitian students that arrived after the earthquake, but three went back to Haiti and two went on to college. The remaining students met with social worker Kim Mowatt on January 12 to discuss the changes in their lives a year after arriving from Haiti.
“After the New Year last year, I felt a new beginning and I wanted to get good grades and set resolutions,” senior Doubea Pierre said. “But five days after school started, the earthquake happened and it froze all my resolutions. I thought, what’s next, is this really happening?”
For all of the six students, the earthquake changed their future plans. Five of these students currently live with their relatives and many of them have not seen their parents since the earthquake, but are keeping close contact with them by phone and Facebook.
Senior Anne-Carinne Exume was the last student to arrive at CCHS after the earthquake and is one of the only students who went back to visit Haiti. Exume said that she feels lucky to be alive.
“On January 12th I escaped death,” Exume said. “God gave me a new life that started after the earthquake.
While Exume was able to return to Haiti, sophomore Neisha Pierre is afraid of what she would have to face, if she returned.
“I never went back; I’m not ready to see everything,” Neisha Pierre said. “But my dad is still in Haiti working.”
Going back to school in Haiti is not an option for junior Annick-Charles. Charles’ school in Haiti has yet to be rebuilt and students at the school have been forced to learn in the heat underneath tents.
“I don’t want to go back because of the school,” Annick Charles said. “It would be painful to see everything and all my friends are here now.”
For these students, the hardest part of coping with the anniversary of the earthquake is looking back on the people they lost.
“Every time I think about it, I just cry,” Annick Charles said. “I lost my close friend; she died in her house.”
Annick Charles is not alone. Around 300,000 people died as a result of the earthquake that took place last year. Exume also lost some of her friends in the earthquake.
“I miss my friends who went to heaven,” Exume said. “But it’s a gift that I’m still here, so I should be celebrating instead of crying.”
In her meetings with the students, Mowatt encourages them to discuss their feelings about the earthquake in order to help them cope with the present. Mowatt, who does not speak Creole, is just one of the counselors hired throughout Broward County to assist the Haitian students through high school. After the earthquake last year, the Broward County School District collaborated with local service and government agencies to assist the families of Haitian students.
All of these students are involved in extracurricular activities at CCHS and have high hopes for a bright future. Exume is involved in the drama department and made her stage debut singing “Circle Of Life” at a drama showcase. Exume then received the role of a Dynamite in CCHS’s highly acclaimed production: Hairspray.
“When I’m in a scene, I feel like I am in my own bubble,” Exume said. “My dream is to go to the New World School of the Arts for drama and double major in dance.”
Like Exume, Annick Charles has also found her niche at CCHS. She has taken up stepping on the CCHS step team, which was founded this year.
“When I first came here I was a little bit shy, but when I got on the step team, I met new people who were so nice to me,” Annick Charles said. “The teachers and students made me feel so comfortable at school.”
Both Annick Charles and Exume performed at the CCHS Fashion show that was held on Feb. 3. Annick Charles performed with the step team and Exume volunteered to be a model for the show.
Other Haitian students have found their niche in CCHS athletics. Senior Doubea Pierre plays forward on the CCHS varsity soccer team and his friend Hugues Charles is the team’s manager.
“The team makes me feel welcome,” Doubea Pierre said. “They’re always there with advice and you can talk to the coach if you have a problem. Being on the team makes me feel like I am doing something for the school.”
These students have made lasting friendships at CCHS, which will only make it harder for them when the time comes to leave. Doubea Pierre, Hugues Charles, and Exume will all be graduating together at the end of this year, leaving behind their fellow Haitian friends.
“They’re all going to leave me,” Annick Charles said. “I will be by myself next year.”
When the last of these Haitian students gather together next year on January 12 to discuss the earthquake, many of their peers will have already forgotten. However, that tragic day will forever be kept alive through their memories of these students.
“I hope that all of the kids that left Haiti will go back and make a difference,” Doubea Pierre said.