GNO Collaborative Teachers

Ben Franklin to Award Honorary Diplomas to Class of 2006 Students Displaced by Hurricane Katrina

Date: April 9th, 2018



New Orleans, LA—March 26, 2018 Benjamin Franklin High School’s Head of School, Dr. Patrick Widhalm, announced that it will award an honorary diploma to any student of the Class of 2006 who was displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Franklin is seeking any student who left Franklin in August 2005 after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina; and who was not able to return when the school reopened the following January.  The diploma will recognize these students as part of the Franklin Class of 2006.  The students will be honored during the Baccalaureate Brunch for the Class of 2018 at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans on Sunday, May 20, 2018.
“Since joining Franklin last year, I have come to recognize the multi-faceted meaning and value attached to a Franklin diploma: students of high ability, with a sense of purpose, and who exercise resilience in the face of challenges learn through rigor, achievement, and community support,” said Dr. Widhalm.  “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.”
When Katrina hit, Benjamin Franklin High School’s entire first floor facilities were destroyed, along with major roof, window and classroom damage. Armed with only hope and determination, parents, teachers, alumni and volunteers gutted, cleaned and repaired the school, while raising over $1 million to re-open the school. BFHS re-opened on January 17, 2006, Ben Franklin’s 300th birthday. The Class of 2006 started with 196 seniors and 126 graduated, 70 were not able to graduate with their classmates. Students evacuated to 38 different states, but most returned to a triumphant faculty and staff, eager to continue the Franklin High spirit of excellence. Today, BFHS has 964 students enrolled.
“Each graduating class leaves an important legacy to Benjamin Franklin, now in its 60th year,” said Dr. Widhalm. “All members of the Class of 2006, those who could return and those who could not, are part of that legacy.”
For this year’s inaugural recognition, the honorees will be hosted as Franklin’s guests at the Baccalaureate Brunch.  Any student from the Class of 2006 interested in attending should RSVP to Christy Cowart Read ’89, Development Director, at no later than Friday, April 20.  If the alumna/us is unable attend, but would like an honorary diploma mailed to them, please send a postal address.  Please include the name, as it should appear on the honorary diploma and a paragraph or two with updates about the past 12 years.
About Benjamin Franklin High School
Benjamin Franklin High School, New Orleans’ most outstanding public charter school, has been preparing students for success through academic achievement since it was founded in 1957. Consistently ranked as a “top public high school in the nation” by U.S. News and World Report, Newsweek, and Business Week, Franklin has received the highest School Performance Score in Louisiana, making it the #1 public school in the state, year after year.  Franklin is repeatedly named a National Blue Ribbon School, producing Presidential and National Merit Scholars each year.  The exceptional students, faculty and staff of Benjamin Franklin High School are the best and the brightest of New Orleans. For more information, visit 
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