UAlbany Continues Support of Puerto Rico Recovery Efforts

45 students were among the first group of SUNY volunteers in 2019.

ALBANY, N.Y. (Jan. 22, 2019) – The UAlbany community has stood tall in supporting Gov. Cuomo’s “New York Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative.” 

Last May, 30 students from the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC), along with two staff members, were among the first group of SUNY volunteers to assist with the island's ongoing Hurricane Maria and Irma recovery efforts. Dozens more from the campus community followed during the summer.

Now, the University’s service work is continuing into the new year.

Island Rebuilding

Forty-five UAlbany students from diverse majors and seven faculty/staff departed for Puerto Rico earlier this month as part of the initiative.

Twenty-three of the students spent 10 days in La Chorra, Mayagüez, painting and cleaning up houses that were destroyed by the hurricanes. Their work was in partnership with the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, and supported by AMPI, Inc., a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote and improve the quality of life for people with developmental disabilities living in the west side of Puerto Rico.

The other 22 students were in the San Juan region for more than a week, painting and working on various other exterior components of hurricane-ravaged homes and buildings.

Collectively, the students helped complete restoration projects for dozens of local residents.

“This trip was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my college career,” said Natalie Bueno, a junior Human Biology major. “Being able to interact with members of the Puerto Rican communities and hear what life has been like after the hurricanes has taught me far more than any article or documentary could have.”

Photo of UAlbany student Stone Williams painting a home in Puerto Rico.

Psychology major Stone Williams (pictured above) was among the UAlbany students painting homes in La Chorra, Mayaguez this month.

“When I came to Puerto Rico, I did not really know what to expect outside of showing up to provide labor,” added Stone Williams, a senior Psychology major. “I never would have expected to leave with a fresh perspective on life, countless new sources of inspiration and many unforgettable memories.”

“This trip has truly inspired me to create change in every area of the world that I can reach,” said Nicole Pinkerton, a senior Sociology major. “It has taught me that true happiness is not obtained through wealth and material objects. Instead, it is having the ability to give back and see the positive imprint you have left behind in the lives of others.”

Faculty and staff leaders on the trip included: Martha Asselin of the Center for Leadership and Service, Zakhar Berkovich of Rockefeller College, Sandy Damhof of UAlbany’s Cornerstone Campus Ministry, Roxanne Jones Booth of Africana Studies, Leah Rotella of Student Engagement, Samantha Penta of CEHC and Kristen Wilcox of the School of Education.

Combining Academics and Service

Four CEHC students on the trip also completed a one-credit “field experiences” course while in Puerto Rico. The course, taught by Penta, who is an assistant professor, offered an opportunity for the students to discuss the island’s recovery efforts with local and federal officials and researchers associated with the National Institute of Energy and Island Sustainability (INESI).

The course – EHC398 – is part of “a new structure by CEHC that links field experiences directly to an academic course,” according to Penta.

Travel costs for students in the course were funded through a SUNY Chancellor’s Grant for Innovative Study Abroad Programs (ISAP Grant).

Additional support for students in Puerto Rico this winter break was awarded through SUNY System Administration, UAlbany’s Center for Experiential Learning, Center for Leadership and Service, Student Affairs, Office of Diversity and Inclusion and generous campus donors.

Follow #UAlbanyStandsWithPR on Twitter to see more photos and video from the trip.

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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany-SUNY offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciencesbusiness, public health, health sciences, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.