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Young evacuees look to future

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Displaced students are adjusting to Oklahoma but miss New Orleans.

Bryson Washington misses gumbo and crawfish the most. The 14-year-old moved to Edmond in September after Hurricane Katrina wiped out his family's home in New Orleans.

Renee Tran is ready to return to Louisiana and graduate from high school. The 17-year-old came to Oklahoma City to live with her sister after the natural disaster in August.

The two are among about 900 displaced students from Louisiana and Mississippi who have called Oklahoma home this semester.

``I'm mad because I lost clothes, games, toys and stuff that I used to have. I'm heartbroken that I don't have a lot of my stuff any more,'' Washington said.

His home on the east bank of the Mississippi River flooded after levees broke. Four feet of water filled his house, covering bed comforters with algae and tipping over the refrigerator.

``It's hard because I really liked where I lived. I was just getting started at a new high school,'' Washington said.

The freshman spent three days at Warren Easton Fundamental High School before leaving his neighborhood, evacuating to a hospital where his mother worked. Warren Easton, which he says had about 4,000 students, is much different from his new high school in Coyle, where the entire district enrollment is under 400.

Gone are the required khaki and white school uniforms, and there are fewer rules in Coyle, he said. His New Orleans friends have scattered; some live in Houston or Dallas, and others moved to Baton Rouge, La.

Washington moved to Oklahoma to live with an aunt and uncle. His two sisters enrolled at Langston University.

``People have really been nice to us. They've given us stuff, and I've made new friends,'' he said.

There's some sense of normalcy, though, for Washington. In Louisiana, he auditioned last season for the Stingers_ a hip-hop dance team that performs at New Orleans Hornets basketball games. He made the 21-member team.

After arriving in Oklahoma City, Washington made the team again. His first game was Sunday. He'll perform again Wednesday.

``It gives me hype because I like to perform in front of people and be recognized,'' he said.

Washington also plays basketball at Coyle and hopes to join the baseball team in the spring. His biggest academic challenge has been Oklahoma history, a subject he knows little about.

Tran, a high school junior, is avoiding Oklahoma history at Mustang High School. It's the only credit keeping her from graduating high school early. But she's content with the history of Louisiana she learned in seventh grade.

She is ready to return home and graduate from L.W. Higgins High School with her friends. She'll spend her senior year taking advanced-placement courses, hoping to earn college credit before she graduates.

Tran moved to southwest Oklahoma City in August to live with her oldest sister, who owns a nail salon in Yukon.

Tran's house, on the west bank of the Mississippi River, received only minor wind damage from the hurricane, and her mother since has returned to their home. Tran, though, will wait until next school year.
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