NEW ORLEANS — Five years after Hurricane Katrina, Oscar-winning actress Sandra Bullock returned Sunday to the New Orleans high school she helped rebuild for the opening of an on-campus health clinic.
Bullock, whose adopted son was born in New Orleans, joined a host of educators, school supporters and politicians, including U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu and David Vitter and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, for the clinic's ribbon-cutting ceremony, which coincided with the storm's anniversary.
"We're here to celebrate an anniversary and though that might be hard for some, I choose to emphasize the word 'celebrate.' Sometimes tragedies bring out the very best in people and it's one of the reasons why we stand in this school of excellence today," Bullock told about 100 people gathered in the auditorium of Warren Easton Charter High School, which was rebuilt after Katrina swamped the campus.
In addition to a contribution from Bullock, the $700,000 medical and dental clinic received grants from The Kellogg Foundation and The San Francisco 49ers Foundation. It's set to open in the fall and will provide services ranging from flu shots to emergency care.
Bullock previously donated money to Easton, the city's oldest public high school, for renovations, scholarships and supplies including new band uniforms.
"She's helped shine a light on us and our efforts," said Alexina Medley, Easton's principal. "Without her, we would not have returned as soon as we did. She's come to our rescue several times and in a pinch, she's definitely helped us out."
Janell Batiste, 44, whose 14-year-old daughter Jasmine is a freshman at Easton, said the community needs the clinic.
"It will definitely help those students who don't have insurance," she said. "I think there should be these types of facilities in all the schools."
Cassondra Ferrand, the school's nurse who helped spearhead the clinic project, said Tulane Medical Center will provide physicians for the clinic, which will also have nurse practitioners and social workers.
Ferrand said the clinic is badly needed in an area that's been underserved since Katrina.
"This corridor used to have a slew of doctors and dentists but post-Katrina, there's nothing," she said.