Maria to Massachusetts
by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist
On Wednesday, September 20, 2017, while life here in Massachusetts was proceeding as any other fall day would, Puerto Rico was devastated by a hurricane named Maria that still leaves 30% of the island without electricity.
Like many other people, I expressed my concern for my fellow Americans by contributing to agencies that could help the recovery. I was proud to see members of my local electric company go down to help, and proud to see how many states, including Massachusetts, responded to the need.
No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. Since that day back in September, my thoughts have often been with the people of Puerto Rico and how much it will take to rebuild the island. It’s easy to forget from day to day that so many people, especially students, have been displaced. So many young people’s lives have been thrust into upheaval.
All this came to mind recently as I was enrolling new students in one of our school programs. It is always a pleasure to meet new students and get to know them as people. This time, a couple of students stood out. Both were poised. Both stayed focused as they navigated through the online pre-assessments in math and reading.
As the day went on I learned that these students were from Puerto Rico. They had moved here after the hurricane destroyed their homes. They are living here now, but their home is still Puerto Rico.
In a matter of a few months, they had moved to an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people to start a new life. Acclimating to a new environment is a challenge for any young person, but doing it under traumatic duress vastly increases the challenges. They are in a new place, maybe living with new people, attending a new school with new peers, and studying in a new language. To add yet another stressor, students from other parts of the country including Puerto Rico have to face a new test, the MCAS.
I know these students have many challenges ahead, but I was so impressed by their calmness and evident resiliency. I’m thankful that our country still offers refuge to some people. It makes me happy to think that I can assist their adjustment and help them master the school part of their new environment.