The Charger Blog

Puerto Rico’s Ongoing Recovery From Hurricane Maria Impacts University of New Haven Students, Community Members

As part of the University’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Myatt Center for Diversity and Inclusion hosted a discussion on Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico and the continuing efforts to rebuild.

October 15, 2018

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing & Communications

Discussion sponsored by the Myatt Center for Diversity and Inclusion.
Panelists Jason Ortiz, Jeff Cohen, and Ryan Caron King lead a discussion as part of a Hispanic Heritage Month event sponsored by the Myatt Center for Diversity and Inclusion. Juan Hernandez, the Myatt Center’s director (right) and President Steven Kaplan (left) look on.

For University of New Haven business management major Olivia Acevedo ’19, Hurricane Maria’s destruction hit close to home. Concerned for family members who were in Puerto Rico when the storm hit last September, she has been closely following the recovery effort, including visiting the island.

She was in the audience last week as the Myatt Center for Diversity and Inclusion, as part of its celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, hosted a discussion about what has taken place in the 13 months since the storm hit.

"I came because my family was directly impacted," she said. "Some of them are from Puerto Rico, and some were visiting when the storm hit. "I wanted to learn more, and I hoped this conversation would shed light on the fact that many students have been impacted. Hurricane Maria hasn’t just impacted people on the island, it has impacted people here."

As part of the event the University welcomed three panelists: Jeff Cohen and Ryan Caron King of WNPR and Jason Ortiz, president of the Connecticut Puerto Rican Agenda, a non-partisan alliance of national and local organizations, elected and community leaders, and volunteers.

The program, "The Island Next Door: Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria, and its Recovery," covered the impact of the storm and featured stories of resilient residents of Puerto Rico, including some who have relocated to Connecticut in the aftermath of the storm. The panelists shared their own experiences on the island, showing pictures and videos to the students, faculty, and staff members who attended the discussion.

"It bothers me to see that Puerto Rico is not getting the help they need," said Joan Maloney ’20, a psychology major. "I have seen the recovery from both sides, since my dad is in the military. I was struck by how many people have come to Connecticut after the storm. Puerto Rico is part of America. We need to care for them."

"Conversations like this happen at dinner tables around America. It’s time to make these conversations more relevant with action in our communities. Puerto Ricans aren’t just our neighbors, they’re our friends and family."Michael Desir ’22, Music and Sound Recording