In the few months since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, all three campuses have mobilized to raise a collective $4,340 for relief efforts through raffles, sales, tournaments, and donations.
A Category 4 storm, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 16 and left the entire island without electricity and many areas without clean water or shelter. Just two months later, the island remains in a state of crisis, with thousands still lacking power and living on the streets.
The Upper School campus honored Puerto Rico by holding a mandatory X block assembly on October 10, when students and faculty watched videos detailing the scale of destruction and heard personal accounts of Maria’s effects from Dr. Jeannette Perez-Rosello P ’20 ’21, Middle School (MS) Languages Department Head Lourdes Fernandez, and Lower School (LS) Spanish Teacher Omar Machado, all of whom grew up in the territory.
US Spanish Teacher Rosario Sánchez Gómez, who organized the assembly and whose husband is from Puerto Rico, said the event was originally designed to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, but she and the other Spanish teachers shifted the focus in light of the hurricane.
“I wanted to tie it up with the real people [at the school] who are affected by the hurricane or struggling to connect with their families,” she said.
Mr. Machado attested to the difficulty of contacting family members in Puerto Rico, invited the audience to imagine the daily trials of those affected, and expressed gratitude both for the community’s compassion and for the opportunity to share his personal experiences.
“It was valuable to gather everyone in one room so the school can see how real people closer to home are affected by catastrophe and so students can relate in real time,” he said.
The US also raised money through a teacher raffle for a restaurant gift card, a student raffle for a language class lunch and parking privileges, an empanada sale by the Eco-Reps and Spanish classes, and a Spikeball tournament. Together these initiatives raised $3,070.
On Sparks Street, Ms. Fernandez worked alongside MS English Teacher and Community Service Club Leader Zoe Tarshis to organize a bracelet sale called “Pulseras para Puerto Rico,” or “Bracelets for Puerto Rico,” over a week in mid-October. Students volunteered their free time on a drop-in basis to help make around 200 bracelets, which went on sale for $5 each and raised a total of $950.
“The students [were] very engaged and excited about the fundraiser,” Ms. Fernandez said. “We had about 30 volunteers every day making bracelets.”
The efforts continued at the LS campus, with LS Director Anthony Reppucci and LS Assistant Director Marissa Clark sending an email to the community for donations, which amounted $320 as of November 18.
Additionally, fifth graders spent class time discussing the importance of giving back, and many created their own t-shirt designs to reflect the cause. Teachers and students then reviewed over 40 submitted designs and voted to select one winner, which will be printed on shirts and sold to help Puerto Rico in the coming months.
Ms. Sánchez Gómez said she hopes the entire school community continues to help Puerto Rico with its recovery efforts.
“We can help by not just donating money, but also by [putting] together shipments of basic supplies,” she said. “I know people in this community are willing to help, and there’s still a lot more that we can do.”