How Manhattan College Supported Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria’s Destruction

by Victoria Hernandez


Days after Hurricane Maria impacted Puerto Rico on Sept. 16, Manhattan College started uniting forces to provide help to Lasallian communities and the greater Puerto Rico area.

Both faculty and students of the Jasper community developed initiatives to relief the aftermath. From fundraisers to a water purification project, the college has expressed their compromise with providing assistance and resources to their extended Caribbean family.

For Brother Jack Curran, MC’s vice president for mission, responding to Puerto Rico’s needs is part of his calling.

“One of my vows is to be united ‘together and by association’ with others, faculty, staff, students, and Brothers, who are involved with this life-giving project that we call Lasallian education. So, with the extraordinary devastation, pain and suffering of members of my family caused by Hurricane Maria — and knowing that members of my “together and by association vowed family” — faculty, students, staff, and Brothers who happen to live in Puerto Rico — are among those suffering — and also knowing that here at MC we have students and faculty from PR — I felt compelled to do ‘something’.”

For Curran, the student body’s response towards contributing to the island has been quite encouraging.

“[They’re] energetically engaged and seeking to be of assistance to the people of Puerto Rico. It’s inspiring,” Curran said.

According to Curran, helping fellow Americans is part of the Lasallian mission, no matter where they are.

“For us, these are not simply “nice words” — but these are words that define concepts and commitments that [we] embrace and “bring to life”. Since we have passionate people who are committed to a purpose, what I’ve done has been to listen to what our students and faculty are saying and to observe what they are doing. I reached out to our Lasallians in Puerto Rico and tried to find out more of their  needs so that we might be able to identify some specific expertise here at Manhattan College that could assist them,” said Curran.

There are two Lasallian schools in Puerto Rico: one in Añasco and another one in Bayamón. Both who were impacted by the hurricane.

The School of Engineering faculty, Dr Maffia and Dr Abulencia in particular, are committed to lend a hand.

“We’re presently in the process of designing some projects in consultation with our Lasallian colleagues in Puerto Rico — for both short term and long term assistance – -for water purification and electricity and — to help with health and education — things that are central to the Lasallian mission,” said Curran.

Claudia Ramirez, president of the Biology Club on campus, is one of the students committed to helping the island.

“The [Biology Club] board and I hosted “Curiosity Day” in the quad, where people had the opportunity to learn a little about science and explore their own curiosity. During the event, we had a Make-Your-Own Slime Station, where people donated money towards the cause and they took home some slime. We raised $300 that day.”

The fact that many young Puerto Ricans took matters into their hands and decided to get together to help in some way or another their island is making many feel less stressed and hopeful.

“To see how students all over the US are doing all they can to find help and create this amazing movement gives me hope that the next generation will bring greatness to the island. Students are facing reality and noticing that if we don’t help our own people no one else will,” Ramirez said.

Natalia Alvarez, one of the students who formed the Do It For Puerto Rico movement, says that help after the hurricane was necessary but continuing to help in the future is crucial.

“At the beginning the support from the students was amazing and we are really thankful for that. However people still need to understand that the crisis is still ongoing and that the support should continue and not fade away after two weeks,” she said.

Do It For Puerto Rico, a movement founded by Puerto Ricans on the Manhattan College campus, has raised over $3,000.

Carmen Alvarez, a Puerto Rican junior biology major, felt the need to make a difference from New York. And that’s exactly what I’m doing.

“I organized an event in a venue downtown in which students would have to buy a ticket to get in and all the profits from the ticket sale would be donated to United for Puerto Rico by the First Lady organization. My friend helped me design a flyer to promote the event and the Puerto Rican students helped me spread the word all over campus by posting the flyer on our social media pages and the dorm halls. The event was a success, selling more than 200 tickets,”  Alvarez said.

Micaela Bishop, student body president at MC, has also supported students in their journey of recovery.

“As Lasallians we took the initiative to try and organize how the student body could raise funds but also support our fellow students,” Bishop said.

Student Government designed t-shirts with a message for Puerto Rico and has been selling them to later on donate all the profits.

“Increasing empathy and passion amongst the students is exactly what the PR students did in their initial work towards helping their families and loved ones back home. Through a great deal of conversation and events, they did a wonderful job at bringing a piece of their homeland back to their home in the Bronx, all while fundraising a ton,” Bishop said.