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Almost a year later, SOWELA recovering from Laura

Posted at 12:24 PM, Aug 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-23 13:24:03-04

SOWELA Technical Community College has provided an update on the school's recovery in the year since Hurricane Laura.

The storm caused more than $40 million in damages to the school's Lake Charles campus.

Thirteen buildings had moderate to major roof and structural damage from the storm, and now one year later, 10 of those are back online. School officials hope to have almost all buildings repaired by the end of October.

Laura, a Category 4 storm, hit Louisiana's southwest coast on August 27, killing at least 28 people and bringing severe flooding to Calcasieu Parish. The storm had 150-mph winds and a 15-foot storm surge that forced evacuation of more than half a million people. An estimated 7,000 families were displaced in Lake Charles alone.

SOWELA students from across the area were severely impacted by the storm, yet enrollment has remained strong as the college has 2,875 currently registered for its Fall 2021 semester. Despite the challenges of recovery from Hurricane Laura, SOWELA achieved the highest retention rate among all community and technical colleges in Louisiana from 2020 to 2021. Several of SOWELA’s programs have seen double-digits increases in their enrollment percentages including:

  • Industrial Electrical Technology – 41.6% increase over Fall 2020
  • Machine Tool Technology – 66.6% increase over Fall 2020
  • Digital Arts and Communications – 83% increase over Fall 2020

Officials attribute the growth in most programs to the need for skilled laborers during the rebuilding and recovery process in Southwest Louisiana. SOWELA has a history of 80 years of educating and training manual laborers, technical workers and other industry-specific employees to immediately go forth into Louisiana’s workforce. Despite the challenges of rebuilding from Hurricane Laura, the college is still committed to providing such integral training and rigorous education.

“Hurricane Laura was devastating to the Southwest Louisiana region causing immeasurable damage and the tragic loss of human life in our community, but our institution, faculty, staff and students have been incredibly resilient in the face of the adversity of a record-setting storm followed by a global pandemic,” said SOWELA Chancellor Dr. Neil Aspinwall. “The entire SOWELA family has banded together to reopen buildings, provide students with the necessary technology to continue their education even with utilities down for weeks, implement new training programs to educate students to fill vital jobs and help return the Lake Charles community to a sense of normalcy. I could not be prouder to lead SOWELA as I’ve seen thousands of SOWELA’s students and faculty go above and beyond to live up to SOWELA’s mission.”

Outside of its Lake Charles campus, SOWELA recently acquired Lamar Salter in Leesville and also has additional campuses in Jennings and Oakdale.

The college is planning to host its first fundraiser since Hurricane Laura with its annual Flying Tigers Car Show on Saturday, September 18. All proceeds from the outdoor event will benefit student scholarships and enhancements. More information about the fundraiser is available at www.sowela.edu/carshow [schulkens.us11.list-manage.com].

SOWELA offers more than 30 technical and academic programs, including Aviation Maintenance Technology, Industrial Electrical Technology, Welding, Vehicle Maintenance Technology, Forest Technology, Sterile Processing and Practical Nursing (LPN).

For more information about any of SOWELA’s programs or to apply online, visit www.sowela.edu/apply [schulkens.us11.list-manage.com]. Anyone needing additional assistance can contact onestop@sowela.edu for more information.