NEW ORLEANS – Five years after Hurricane Katrina, Oscar-winning actress Sandra Bullock returned Sunday to the New Orleans high school she helped rebuild for the opening of an on-campus health clinic.

Bullock, whose adopted son was born in New Orleans, joined a host of educators, school supporters and politicians, including U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu and David Vitter and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, for the clinic’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, which coincided with the storm’s anniversary.

“We’re here to celebrate an anniversary and though that might be hard for some, I choose to emphasize the word ‘celebrate.’ Sometimes tragedies bring out the very best in people and it’s one of the reasons why we stand in this school of excellence today,” Bullock told about 100 people gathered in the auditorium of Warren Easton Charter High School, which was rebuilt after Katrina swamped the campus.

In addition to a contribution from Bullock, the $700,000 medical and dental clinic received grants from The Kellogg Foundation and The San Francisco 49ers Foundation. It’s due to open in the fall and will provide services ranging from flu shots to emergency care.

Bullock previously donated money to Easton, the city’s oldest public high school, for renovations, scholarships and supplies including new band uniforms.

“She’s helped shine a light on us and our efforts,” said Alexina Medley, Easton’s principal. “Without her, we would not have returned as soon as we did. She’s come to our rescue several times and in a pinch, she’s definitely helped us out.”

‘Last Exorcism’ turns heads at weekend box office

LOS ANGELES – The fright flick “The Last Exorcism” and the heist thriller “Takers” were in a photo finish for the top spot at the weekend box office, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Lionsgate’s “The Last Exorcism” had a thin lead with a $21.3 million debut, closely followed by Sony’s “Takers” with a $21 million opening. They were close enough that rankings could change after final numbers are released today.

After two weekends in the No. 1 spot, Lionsgate’s action romp “The Expendables” slipped to third place with $9.5 million, raising its total to $82 million. Both “The Last Exorcism” and “Takers” debuted well above studio expectations, although the openings were modest compared with most big summer debuts.

Hamlisch to conduct concerts

PASADENA, Calif. – The Pasadena Pops says award-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch will be its principal conductor next summer.

Pops executive Paul Jan Zdunek said Hamlisch will lead four Rose Bowl concerts between June 18 and Aug. 27.

The 66-year-old entertainer has won three Oscars, four Grammys, four Emmys, a Tony and three Golden Globes. He also won a Pulitzer Prize for his show “A Chorus Line” and is known for the musical “They’re Playing Our Song.” He wrote the film scores for “The Way We Were,” “The Sting” and “Sophie’s Choice.”

Hamlisch arrives at an economically challenging time for the Pasadena Symphony and Pops and following the departure of the group’s top two conductors.

The Pasadena Symphony Association was founded in 1928 as the Pasadena Civic Orchestra.

Novel focus of special events

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Dave Eggers’ novel “Zeitoun” is the focus of the monthlong “One Book, One Community” event in East Lansing.

The city and Michigan State University are presenting the novel set in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans as the selection for the event.

Eggers was scheduled to be at East Lansing High School on Sunday night to kick it off. He also is scheduled to welcome freshmen to campus this morning during an event at the Breslin Student Events Center.

A series of community and campus events are planned around the themes in the book.

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