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CC-Puerto Rico Staff Reach Out after Hurricane Maria

Cambridge College Puerto Rico staff
Cambridge College Puerto Rico staff celebrate successful efforts to locate all students.

Less than two weeks after Hurricane Irma hit Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria made its way to the island on September 20, 2017. After barreling through Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane with winds that reached 155 mph, Puerto Rico was left drenched with feet of rain, no power, destroyed homes and buildings, and limited food and cell phone service. Cambridge College in Puerto Rico recognized this for what it was – a humanitarian crisis.

Cambridge College Puerto Rico Director, Santiago Mendez, and his seven team members, consisting of admissions counselors and other staff members, made it their mission to locate all students and faculty.

“We organized a task force to reach out to our students and faculty members,” said Mendez. “At the time, power and service on the island was non-existent in some areas, but we tried every method of communication. When we did reach a student or a faculty member on the phone, it was amazing to hear a voice on the other end saying, “Yes, I am alive!”

Fortunately, the Cambridge College building had minimal damage compared to other areas in Puerto Rico – the only issues at the site were with air conditioning and using a generator for a short period of time. The task force members at the College were able to use their phones and computers to contact students through email and by phone. If they could not locate someone, they were prepared to make house visits.

“My team and I were successful in locating everyone, and thankfully did not have to go to anyone’s home,” said Mendez. “We then invited students to come use our facilities to allow them to have access to water, bathrooms, and the Internet. The College was open Monday – Friday, from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm. I wanted to make them comfortable and let them know that we support our students.”

There were some adjustments that had to be made once classes resumed on October 21, 2017. Originally, classes were offered all day on the weekends, but due to the circumstances, had to be switched to half days. Classes are now 4 hours long and the rest of the 2.5 hours are for students to do online work to compensate missing hours in their schedules.

Through their valiant efforts, Cambridge College Puerto Rico was able to retain 97 percent of their students – only 8 decided not to continue with their studies.

“We received two devastating hurricanes in Puerto Rico. People know that the island right now will not provide them with a better future, but an education from Cambridge College can improve possibilities and enable students to receive a promotion or a higher salary, even if they have to leave the island for a better life,” said Mendez. 

You can help

If you would like to assist Cambridge College Puerto Rico students who, due to the effects of the hurricane, are facing financial hardship and may not be able to complete their degree, please consider making a donation to the Cambridge College Student Emergency Fund - Puerto Rico hurricane