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2018 Year in Review: Hurricane brings many Puerto Ricans to Rochester

INTRO:

WXXI is looking back at the events and people that made news in 2018. WXXI’s Tianna Mañón has the
latest update on a community finding a new home.

TIANNA:
Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans were forced to leave the island after Hurricane Maria made
landfall there in August 2017. Flooding destroyed large parts of the island, killing thousands of people.

Since then, more than 3,000 Puerto Ricans have found new homes in Rochester.

Coralys Quíñones is one of them. She arrived in July.

Quíñones is dealing with her very first Rochester winter ever but says she’s excited about her new
home.

AUDIO CLIP OF QUÍÑONES:


“Me gusta, es una [ciudad] muy bonita, totalmente diferente a Puerto Rico pero me voy acostumbrar.
Me gusta te lugar aqui.” (I like it. It’s a beautiful city, totally different than Puerto Rico, but I’ll adapt. I
like living here.”

TIANNA:
Quíñones moved here with her younger brother and mother about a year after the hurricane. Today,
her brother is continuing his education in the Rochester City School District. Her mother has already
found work, and about four months ago, Quíñones landed a job with IBERO. The community agency
provides academic, health and social support services. And it has been leading the effort to help Puerto
Ricans affected by Maria, providing housing, transportation and translation services to the new
residents.

Overall, Quíñones says the move is a “positive” one, even if it was hard. And while she’s grateful to be
working, she has much more that she wants to accomplish.

AUDIO CLIP OF QUÍÑONES:


“Si quiero aprender mas ingles y quiero estudiar.” (Yes, I want to learn more English and continue
studying.”)

TIANNA:
She was placed at IBERO through RochesterWorks, helping with office needs and working closely with
Julio Saenz, chief communications and development officer at IBERO.

Saenz says they’ve helped thousands of people like Quíñones and her family.

AUDIO CLIP OF SAENZ:


“Since the storm, we’ve helped over three-and-a-half-thousand people in Rochester that have come. We
estimate there’s a lot more. Not everyone came to us or even needed assistance. We’ve had people
coming from all walks of life.”
TIANNA:
That doesn’t mean everyone resettling from Puerto Rico needs help. In fact, Saenz says many didn’t
need IBERO, because they were able to find work, continuing careers they began on the island. Some
were able to move in with family who helped them get on their feet.

Saenz says many families, even after losing everything, are grateful to have the new opportunities
they’ve found here.

AUDIO CLIP OF SAENZ:


“Most have stayed. Most are very happy with Rochester and how they’ve been treated and welcomed,
and most of them have found jobs. Just about all of them that we talk to have already found
employment.”

TIANNA:
Puerto Ricans continue to move to the mainland every single week and in addition to community
organizations, the Rochester City School District is also working to make their move smoother.

Carlos Garcia is the chief of communications for the district. He says they’ve had more than 600 students
move from hurricane-affected areas into the district since Maria hit. That includes other Caribbean
islands and parts of Florida. It’s roughly enough students to make an entirely new school.

As a result, some families have asked for a new bilingual school. But there are many financial and other
obstacles, so the district has instead created the Bilingual Literacy Academy. The program helps students
learn English while also delivering lessons in Spanish, so that they don’t fall behind.

Saenz says IBERO and several other organizations still need support from the community to help ease
the transition for new residents.

He also recommended that people make an effort to get to know the cultural background of their new
neighbors.

AUDIO CLIP OF SAENZ:


“For folks that want to be more welcoming to our new neighbors, I think it’s easiest starting with going
to Wikipedia and reading a little bit about the history of Puerto Rico. Its involvement with the United
States, how we’re part of the United States, how we’re U.S. citizens and all the accomplishments and
things that Puerto Ricans have had in this country.”

TIANNA:
Quíñones and other Puerto Ricans say they are grateful for the help they’ve received here and for their
new homes. It doesn’t make the losses they’ve suffered any easier, but it does give them the chance to
move forward.

Tianna Mañón, WXXI News.