DEPARTMENTS TAX OFFICE
By: Beth Dombrowa
Ah, senior year of high school. It’s a time when students are on the brink of making some of the biggest decisions of their lives, navigating college and scholarship applications. It’s also a time when students look forward to reaping the benefits of years of schooling: prom and graduation are within reach.
But senior year didn’t start as expected for seniors in Goose Creek CISD. Many were relocated from their homes when Harvey sat over the area, dumping more than 50 inches of rain and shocking residents whose homes had never been under a threat of flood before. Here are just a few of the hundreds of area seniors who were affected by Harvey. Despite changes of plans, financial difficulties and the stressors of being relocated, they’re still looking forward to crossing the stage on Saturday and are excited about what their future hold:
Jose Gutierrez, GCM
Photos by Carrie Pryor-Newman
The road in front of the home where Jose Gutierrez lives with his mother and step dad turned into a river during Harvey. More than three feet of water rushed into the house and Jose’s truck was a total loss.
Evacuated by air boat, the family stayed with friends for a few days before moving into a motel room on Garth, where they would remain for two months. Once school started 11 days late on Sept. 11, Jose went to his classes and to his job at Samson Controls, and, on weekends, worked 10-12 hours a day with his stepdad to make repairs to their home.
As he approaches graduation, most of the work on the house is complete, although there is still some work to do on the stairs and trim to put down.
“My motto is, ‘If you think it’s hard now, it’s going to be even harder when you give up,’” said Jose, who is in the top 10 percent of his graduating class at Goose Creek Memorial, a student in the Global Business Academy, National Honor Society, Key Club, AVID and the Chick-Fil-A Leader Academy.
Recently, Jose, who makes his own car payments, pays for his phone and helps out financially at home when he can, took a second job at Beacon Federal Credit Union. His demanding schedule of classes, coursework, a job and home repairs left Jose little time to apply for the scholarships he still hopes to receive to attend the University of Houston, where he plans to double major in Entrepreneurship and Business Administration. His goal is to one day own multiple businesses across the nation recycling oil residue from ships and barges.
“Despite the hardships, I’m still graduating,” Jose said. “I’m moving on.”
Deion Williams, RSS
In just a few short months, Deion Williams will relocate to the Boston area, where she will attend school at Quincy College on a basketball scholarship. Deion hasn’t ever been to Boston, but she’s already pretty sure she wants to return to Texas once she has earned a degree in nursing.
As Harvey battered the area in August, Deion and her mother were at home. They heard a strange sound and hadn’t yet identified it when the ceiling of the room they were in suddenly caved in.
“You could literally see outside,” Deion said. She and her mother covered the hole with trash bags and tried to use buckets to collect the rainfall with little success. They next day they went to stay with her grandparents, who helped finance the necessary home repairs so Deion and her mother could return home.
“It was a rough start to the year,” said Deion, adding that her family was down to one car for a while. “It was just such bad timing.”
Deion works at Chili’s and saves her money, which she intends to use to pay for an apartment near her new college.
“I’m looking forward to new beginnings,” she said.
Annelysse Lopez, REL
Robert E. Lee’s Student Body President, Annelysse Lopez still hasn’t been able to return to her home due to Harvey’s flood damage, although her family is hoping to be back by July. Living with a relative for her senior year has been tough, particularly as her parents have been forced to devote so much time to making repairs on their home on the weekends and during the evening hours.
“My parents are very involved and would have helped me fill out college and scholarship applications, but I’ve largely had to do that and all the other errands that go along with senior year on my own,” Annelysse said.
As Harvey began its relentless deluge, she recalls going outside and taking stop-motion photos of the rain (photography is a hobby) before heading to bed. At about 4 a.m., she woke to the sound of her parents’ voices.
“I heard my mom say, ‘The water is coming in,’” Annelysse said. She was told to pack a bag with a week’s worth of clothes and her most treasured possessions and then she and her brother waited while their parents continued to pack what they could. Meanwhile, the water continued to seep in. When the family left – fortunately, their vehicles were spared – they first went to a motel. When it became clear that their house had suffered significant damage, the Lopez family moved in with a relative, where they remain.
Despite the struggles of her senior year, Annelysse served her school as Student Body president, and has been an active member of Key Club, Captain of the Varsity soccer team and an officer in the International Thespian Society. An honor student (Annylysse ranks 12th in her graduating class), she’s also maintained a part-time job.
Following graduation, Annelysse will attend Lee College with plans to transfer to the University of Houston where she will enter the Bachelor of Fine Arts Program for Photography, while also majoring in Business.
Brooke Clifton, RSS
Harvey altered Brooke Clifton’s plans, but she has a backup. Originally, she was to head to Stephen F. Austin University to study deaf education. While she still plans to become a deaf ed teacher, (a profession she has chosen in honor of her grandparents, who were both deaf) she’ll now be taking a year off from school to save for tuition, and will move to Baton Rouge to establish residency. The goal now is to enroll in Baton Rouge Community College after a year and eventually transfer to LSU. She’ll be giving up her part time job here at a sushi bar and looking for other employment in the Baton Rouge area.
Like hundreds of others in the Baytown area, Brooke and her family, including her two sisters, mother and stepfather, were rescued by boat. While waiting for the water to recede, they stayed with a family friend. They remained out of their home for about two weeks but then returned to their house where they have been living amongst the repair work. There’s still work to be done, but Brooke is pleased with the progress and happy to have a dishwasher again.
“All the work going on made it hard to focus a lot of the time, especially the pounding in the background. We spent a lot of time working on the house, which was also a distraction from schoolwork,” said Brooke, who is part of the Ready, Set, Teach! Program and takes advanced ASL, advanced physics and has been taking a dual credit English class.
Harvey had a significant impact on Brooke’s family finances, which is the reason for the change of college plans. Still, she keeps a positive outlook.
“It made me bond with people. A lot of people in our area were affected and we’d say, ‘I don’t have a house,’ and someone else would say, ‘Me neither.’ We kind of had to laugh about it sometimes. What else can you do?”
Consolidated Independent School District
4544 Interstate 10 East | Baytown, Texas 77521 | 281.420.4800
P.O. Box 30 | Baytown, Texas 77522 | 281.420.4800
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