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Mason students had no idea how much Puerto Rico would need their help

Mason High Schooler Leah Stewart hands check over to Cincinnati for PR President and Co-Founder Anamar Naish
Posted at 5:00 AM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 11:38:14-04

MASON — Para leer esta historia en español, oprima aquí.

COVID-19 cases continue to escalate throughout the nation, including in Puerto Rico. The U.S. territory is now tending to those affected, while still experiencing earthquakes almost every day.

Prior to schools sending students home due to the coronavirus, Mason High Schoolers stepped up to the plate to help, raising close to $3,000. Now it's needed more than the students ever expected.

“Sometimes it’s hard as a 17-year-old to be like, ‘I want to donate but we don’t necessarily have the funds to do that’ so it was just so cool to see us all come together and fight for that and be able to change lives in Puerto Rico,” said Mason High School Senior Leah Stewart.

Stewart is the President of the Spanish National Honor Society. The organization chooses a society or program to make a donation to each year.

In 2020, the group decided to give back to Puerto Rico, because that's where classmate and member Felix Santa is from.

“We’re like a small grain, and it made me feel a part of it,” Santa said. “We’re helping my home country and we’re helping other people. It made me feel good.”

Santa’s family lives in the Rio Piedras and Arecibo areas of the island. Rio Piedras is on the eastern side of the territory, while Arecibo is on the northern coast. Even so, he said, they all felt the powerful 6.4-magnitude earthquake earlier this year.

Felix Santa next to his family, pictured in Puerto Rico
Felix Santa next to his family, pictured in Puerto Rico

“We weren’t expecting this, so they were scared,” Santa said. “They were afraid. But we’re bouncing back.”

Bouncing back with help from his classmates. The $2,347.19 collected, by selling hot chocolate and through individual donations, was presented in the form of a large check to President and Co-Founder of Cincinnati for PR Anamar Naish.

The 501c(3) nonprofit organization was launched to help Puerto Ricans get back on their feet after the damages Hurricane Irma and Maria left behind. Organizers say the group has been able to raise more than $50,000 since September 2017.

“We will be using this money for the shipping containers that are going to be built as a housing opportunity for the affected victims of the earthquakes,” Naish said. “As of right now, one of the groups needs a welding machine, so for sure we’ll be buying that.”

Naish, who is from Puerto Rico but lives in Cincinnati, said it is remarkable to see high schoolers in action.

“I hope that this activates them to continue to do it when they go to college and the future,” she said.

For perspective, according to EarthquakeTrack.com, there have been more than 960 earthquakes in Puerto Rico in the past 30 days. Meanwhile, according to the United States Geological Survey, most of the earthquakes, with more than 2.5-magnitude felt on March 3, took place there, too.