NEW ORLEANS - Britney Spears spent part of Mardi Gras with a group of students whose lives were upended when Hurricane Katrina devastated the area six months ago.
Standing in the French Quarter surrounded by St. Catherine of Siena School dancers wearing "Gatorettes" uniforms, the 24-year-old pop star, a Louisiana native, talked on ABC's "Good Morning America" Tuesday of her recent "surprise" meeting with four older students from Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans.
Spears grew up in Kentwood, and has participated in fundraisers for victims of the hurricane.
On a recent morning, the girls sat down to breakfast with City Councilman Jay Batt, thinking they were there to discuss the effects of Katrina. Then Spears walked in, greeted with squeals.
"It was awesome. I will never forget it," said 14-year-old Lindsay Hernandez, who lived with 21 relatives and friends after her home was destroyed.
Spears took the girls shopping and to dine at one of Cajun chef Emeril Lagasse's restaurants for some Southern comfort food, including fried chicken and red beans and rice. There, the conversation turned from shopping to Katrina.
"We had to go to a shelter," said Auntrell Prosper, 17, who still has Beyonce posters on her bedroom walls in her devastated home. She now lives with her family in a trailer.
Spears gave the girls fleur-de-lis pins on blue ribbons, and she surprised the school's dance troupe, the Gatorettes.
"It was an honor to be here with all of them," Spears said.