When Earl Hurst was 14 years old, he, his mother, Melissa, and 6 year old brother were forced to flee to Texas from New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina. The hurricane destroyed Earl’s neighborhood and home, leaving nothing for Earl and his family to return to.

However, the Hurst family received support to rebuild their lives when Oprah Winfrey’s Angel Team partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build and furnish homes for 65 families displaced by the hurricane and living in Houston. Through the program, the Hursts moved to a new home in a community named “Angel Lane.”

The new home gave Earl stability and made it possible for him to focus on his education.

“Living on Angel Lane and having that home gave me a lot of stability,” Earl said on “Oprah: Where Are They Now?”. “A lot of people had to wonder about, ‘Where am I going to lay my head? Where am I going to live for the next four or five years?’ With me, it was like, ‘Wow, I have a home. Now I can focus on school.”

Sadly, another tragedy impacted Earl’s life when his mother was struck and killed by a car shortly after moving into the new home.

“My mother was strong, independent, warm and kind-hearted. She was just a very good person, and I’m so grateful that I had that person to raise me,” Earl said. “That has carried me to here.”

To honor his mother, Earl continued his education, attending Grambling State University on academic scholarship. Earl majored in management with a minor in marketing and graduated with a 3.5 GPA.

After graduating, Earl moved back to New Orleans and started a real estate investment company to help rebuild the city.

“As you know, a lot of homes in New Orleans still aren’t back to what they were,” Earl said. “Inspired by what happened here [on Angel Lane], we started a real estate investment company.”

Though in the early stages, Earl has great ambitions for the effort to rebuild New Orleans.

“I’m actually hoping to be able to help bring back New Orleans,” Earl said. “I’m not quite there yet, but I feel like we’re on the right path to being able to do so.”

Jowelle M. is a college student interested in sociology, political science, and Spanish. Aside from academics, Jowelle enjoys blogging, reading, music, and spending time with family. She is happiest when she is working with others to improve the community.