CUNY students to assist in Puerto Rico relief, rebuilding efforts for 2 weeks

“My family comes from Puerto Rico, so this hits close to home.”

Working on fundraisers to help hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico was not enough for Queens College senior Christopher Fret.

The 23-year-old Ridgewood resident will spend the next two weeks aiding in rebuilding efforts on the island with a group of CUNY students.

“My family comes from Puerto Rico, so this hits close to home,” Fret said. “This is a form of service you don’t always get an opportunity to do.”

Fret joins the first contingent of 200 CUNY students headed to Puerto Rico, still reeling from the impact of Hurricane Maria last September. About 40 students from different colleges were scheduled to board a flight Sunday night.

“These students, through the work they have volunteered to do this summer, are setting a high standard for all of us as caring global citizens,” CUNY interim Chancellor Vita Rabinowitz said in a statement.

CUNY officials said more than 2,700 students applied to be part of the NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative announced by Gov. Cuomo during a trip there in April.

Cuomo said it’s vital to complete the work this summer, as many people are living in temporary homes that are vulnerable to future hurricanes.

The program allows SUNY and CUNY students to work with building and construction experts in coordination with nonprofit groups working on the island. Students will assist in rebuilding homes, removing mold, and repairing doors, windows and roofs.

“I saw the destruction there and, like other people, I felt unsatisfied with the response from local government and the federal government,” said Emmanuel Yentes, a 22-year-old Brooklyn College senior, who is part of the first CUNY student group heading to Puerto Rico. “These are Americans. They are part of our country.”

In addition to receiving credit for their volunteer work, students will also have tuition and course fees waived.

“My father came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic during a time of turmoil and he needed assistance, you never know when it going to be you,” said Yentes. “It’s important to help others in need.”

Yentes said he has some experience working with his father, who is a general contractor. They will be working in the area around San Juan, he said.

“I want to make the best impact I can, even with just my hands,” he said.

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