Although school at Tulane University has been suspended for at least this semester due to the lingering effects of Hurricane Katrina, Erin Healan, who attended the institution in New Orleans, is still suiting up in a collegiate cheerleading uniform. But instead of being clad in green and white, the junior is wearing red and black.
Healan arrived back in her hometown of Winder two days before the hurricane hit south Louisiana and arranged for enrollment at UGA after the storm’s devastation. Soon after, Shelly Korpieski, UGA’s spirit coordinator, helped Healan join the UGA cheering squad.
“She, along with many other people, had her life turned upside down,” Korpieski says. “And we felt to take the one thing away from her that comforts her wasn’t the right thing to do.”
Healan, who was on an academic scholarship at Tulane, was just as satisfied to extend her education and her cheerleading career at a school just minutes from her home.
“I wanted to be near my home,” says Healan, an anthropology major. “I can’t think of a place where I’d be more comfortable. Everyone at Georgia has been overwhelmingly compassionate and they have allowed me to keep doing the thing I love.”
While Korpieski and the cheerleading staff had already finalized their 2005-06 squads, she said that Healan was named an honorary UGA cheerleader soon after arriving on campus. She has been helping out with volleyball cheerleading and will be filling in other gaps throughout the semester. Still, Healan has hopes that she and her teammates will be able to give the Tulane Green Wave football team encouragement as the squad struggles to carry on a semi-regular schedule. Tulane’s president, Scott S. Cowen, has told the students they would be back at school next semester.
Korpieski feels that welcoming Healan and other Tulane students to Athens is one method of alleviating some of the pain that has stretched across that region.
“Everyone is obviously doing whatever they can to help the hurricane victims,” Korpieski says. “This was just a very easy opportunity for us to do something and to be able to welcome her to the University of Georgia and to our cheerleading squad.”