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A Black man whose life was forever changed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, has finally received the high school diploma that he longed for. After being displaced by the storm, Clint Smith never got the opportunity to graduate from Benjamin Franklin High School, but the school awarded him with an honorary diploma, WDSU reported.

Smith, 29, and his family were forced to evacuate their home three days after he started his senior year at Benjamin Franklin High School, the news outlet writes. The family ended up relocating to Houston. Although his parents went back to NOLA to continue working, he stayed in Texas and finished high school at The Awty International School. Although getting his high school diploma from the Houston-based school was a huge accomplishment for Smith, he felt out of place and sad that he wouldn’t have the opportunity to walk across the stage with his classmates from Benjamin Franklin. A moment that he and his friends looked forward to since entering high school was shattered by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Benjamin Franklin High School was destroyed by the storm but later opened its doors after receiving $1 million to be reconstructed.

Smith says that receiving the diploma from his former high school made him feel complete. “For years, I never knew whether or not I should say that I was an alum of Benjamin Franklin High School because technically I didn’t graduate from there,” he told the news outlet. “I didn’t know how much it would mean to me to get a diploma from my old school until, 12 years later, I held it in my hands. I know some of the stories of what these students faced during Katrina, having to graduate with a high school diploma from another school. I want these students to know: you are a part of Franklin, and I hope that even now, Franklin is a part of you.”

After graduating from The Awty International School, Smith went on to earn his degree at Davidson College. He also became a teacher and best-selling author and is currently pursuing his doctorate degree at Harvard University.


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Hurricane Katrina Survivor Receives Honorary Diploma From New Orleans High School  was originally published on