By Francesca Chirco and Everly Kessler
Natural disasters caused extreme devastation in the southern part of North America this fall.
Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria, a category four hurricane, on Sep. 20, 2017, causing 51 deaths and a 40 day blackout according to CNN.com. Maria has provoked the longest blackout in the United States’ history, with the loss of 1.25 billion hours of electricity for the Puerto Ricans according to Weather.com. A majority of the residents of Puerto Rico have been displaced from their homes, due to the destruction from the hurricane.
Mexico is also recovering from the earthquake that struck Sep. 19 and took over 200 lives and completely demolishing hundreds of buildings according to CNN.com. Rescuers and soldiers worked for days cleaning up and pulling people out of debris from fallen buildings and houses. Mexico also lost electricity as power poles toppled, and along with causing a power outage, blocked roads and streets, preventing transportation. Over 5 million civilians were still without electricity the next day according to CNN.com.
Jamesville-DeWitt High School junior class officers initiated a fundraiser in order to raise money for the people of Puerto Rico and Mexico. “My fellow officers and I saw what was going on in the news and how certain people in leadership positions weren’t taking enough initiative to do the things that would help,” said junior co-Vice President Sayaka LaClair. The officers placed boxes in all of the homerooms so that students could deposit any loose change or cash. The homeroom which collected the most money was to receive a doughnut party in reward.
Tragedy from the hurricane struck close to home as some of the J-DHS faculty members have relatives in the affected areas. Spanish teacher Señora DeJesus has family in Puerto Rico whose homes have been completely demolished. They lost all of their valuables and are still without power. This fundraiser was especially personal for Señora and she took it upon herself to motivate her homeroom students to bring in as much money as possible. In order to show the students the extreme need for aid in Puerto Rico, she displayed photos her family and friends had sent her of the destruction. “Most of my family lost everything. All but one of my family members lost the roof of their home and with that went everything in their houses,” said Sra. DeJesus.
In Sra. DeJesus’s 12 years of working at J-DHS, she has never once had a homeroom raise more than $50 for a fundraiser, but this year’s class was different. She promised the students that she would double the amount of money they brought in, as well as award them another doughnut party in addition to the one given by the junior class. The students brought in donations, and by the first week, the class had already raised $100. After DeJesus doubled that amount, the students continued to donate and support the cause that was so close to their teacher’s heart.
Many of DeJesus’s homeroom students, including freshman Inika Gajra, felt connected to her story. “She was pretty emotional about the family she hadn’t heard from yet and she showed us pictures of her family and neighbors, and we got to see how they had nothing left. I think that really encouraged us,” said Gajra. By the end of the fundraiser, DeJesus’s class was able to have collected $343.00, which was over half of the total amount of money raised by the whole school.
In total, the school raised $641.68 for the people Mexico and Puerto Rico, over the course of three weeks of funding.The junior class officers then donated the funds to the Hispanic Federation via local banks whom were accepting donations to distribute to the organization.“We wanted to do something about it. We are not a big city but we wanted to do something to spark change,” said LaClair.