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After Almost 13 Years, Educator Clint Smith Receives His High School Diploma From School Damaged In Hurricane Katrina

He had to finish school in Houston, but now, he finally gets the closure he needs.

Harvard doctoral candidate and educator Clint Smith is known for his carefully articulated takes on Twitter. 

However, the scholar shared a touching story about how his old New Orleans high school sent him an honorary degree from the school ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, CNN reports.

"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," Smith wrote in the tweet on Friday, August 10. "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."

The devastating storm wreaked havoc throughout the city, but Smith, 29, and his family persevered. According to CNN, his parents returned to New Orleans to work, but he and his sister had to stay in Houston to finish their schooling at The Awty International School. 

"It was bittersweet because we were excited that so many folks we loved were walking on the stage but also hard because we were not walking with them," Smith said.

Students from the New Orleans school went to 38 schools around the country. Floodwaters overtook the first floor of the school, causing $1 million in damage. The school would not reopen until 2006. 

Smith's success as an author and educator attracted the attention of Patrick Widhalm, an official at Ben Franklin High. So, he decided to do something about Smith's diploma. 

"I know some of the stories of what these students faced during Katrina, having to graduate with a high school diploma from another school," Widhalm said. "I want these students to know: you are a part of Franklin, and I hope that even now, Franklin is a part of you."

"So many people lost their homes and lost their lives," Smith said, but added that to him, New Orleans is "unlike any other place."


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