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UAlbany Students Return to Puerto Rico in Support of Hurricane Recovery

More Than 346 SUNY and CUNY Students Will Deploy This Summer

ALBANY, N.Y. (July 30, 2019) – The UAlbany community once again stepped up this summer to help the people of Puerto Rico continue their ongoing recovery efforts from the devastating 2017 hurricane season.

UAlbany sent 13 students and two staff members to Puerto Rico on July 14 for a two-week humanitarian trip to the island, as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “New York Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative.”

More than 346 SUNY and CUNY students are deploying over 10 weeks this summer, adding to the total of 500 that have helped repair damaged homes on the island this year.

Thirty students from UAlbany’s College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC) were among the first to assist with recovery efforts through the Governor’s initiative in May 2018. Dozens more students from various majors continued service work last summer, followed by another 45 over winter break in January.

“Our campus community continues to stand with Governor Cuomo, the SUNY and CUNY System, and all of New York State, in assisting our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico recover from Hurricanes Maria and Irma,” said UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez. “There is still clean-up work to be done, as well as resiliency planning to ensure the island is better prepared for the extreme weather events that will be increasingly likely in the future.”

UAlbany Stands with Puerto Rico

UAlbany student volunteers this summer included a diverse group from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, School of Public Health and College of Arts and Sciences. The trip was sponsored by SUNY and supported by Rockefeller College and UAlbany’s Center for Leadership and Service.

UAlbany student volunteers take a selfie with construction hats on in Puerto Rico.
UAlbany sent 13 students and two staff members to Puerto Rico on July 14 for a two-week humanitarian trip.

“This service trip exemplifies how Rockefeller College excels in providing experiential learning for our students,” said R. Karl Rethemeyer, Dean of the Rockefeller College. “What’s exciting about this initiative is that our students were not only on the ground in Puerto Rico helping to rebuild communities, but also gaining invaluable skills they will carry forward into their future leadership in public service and government.”

The group partnered with NECHAMA, a non-profit, voluntary organization that provides natural disaster preparedness, response, and recovery services nationwide. NECHAMA provided training to repair concrete roofs, and various other projects at community farms on the island and within its El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rain forest in the national forest system.

They worked alongside 25 CUNY students, and UAlbany campus staff members Zakhar Berkovich, director of undergraduate student services at Rockefeller College, and Cheryl Simmons, a staff assistant in the Center for Student Leadership and Service.

Students and staff returned to campus on Sunday.

“Being in Puerto Rico to support the rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Maria was truly a life changing experience. The people are resilient, the landscape is picturesque and the culture is vibrant. I will truly cherish my time there, and have left with many valuable lessons about the value of service,” said Manik Elahi, a native of Albany, who graduated in May from Rockefeller College.

“This trip allowed me to see the world in a different perspective, and learn to be grateful for my resources. I’ve learned how important it is to help my community and Latinx people whenever I can. It also allowed me to come out of my comfort zone and make friends with people I wouldn’t have expected to have met. It opened both my heart and my mind and I am beyond grateful for that,” added Jahmelli Rodriguez, a junior human biology major from the Bronx.

You can learn more about Gov. Cuomo’s continued efforts to support Puerto Rico's recovery from Hurricanes Irma and Maria here.

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than
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