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Hunter College Students Conducted Research to Aid Puerto Rico's Rebuilding Efforts

Josue Mendez

T​he Center for Puerto Rican Studies hosted several student interns this past summer as part of the CUNY EDGE program. The program provides students with a wide range of services and benefits to achieve academic excellence and ultimately graduate on time. Collaborating with different offices within the City University of New York, CUNY EDGE students are given work opportunities in order to develop their professional skills. This year, Centro hosted the largest number of students compared to other offices in the university - assigning them the many projects the Center is tackling. 

Several of the CUNY EDGE students worked on collecting blue roof tarp data from selected municipalities across the island of Puerto Rico impacted by Hurricane Maria. This information will then be used by Centro’s Global Information Systems team. Operation Blue Roof, a program offered by FEMA through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, provided temporary blue roof tarp coverings to eligible homeowners as a means of reducing further damage to the property until permanent repairs could be made. Through the CUNY Service Corps, several students within the City University of New York were granted opportunities to aid in the operation in the Island. 

Over the course of six weeks, Centro’s interns were tasked with counting the vast number of blue roof tarps set up all across Puerto Rico. Hillary, one of the CUNY EDGE interns, commented, “Although [the work] was simple, I would be sad if I missed a rooftop because, to me, it felt like a family that I wasn't helping. I took the job seriously and I was happy to contribute.” One of the interns, Crystal, researched the topic of bullying within Puerto Rico. “It’s amazing that - no matter what - they still thrive in their environment and through everything,” Crystal said. Another intern, Adam, worked on Puerto Rican Voices, Centro’s television program focusing on various elements of the island. The work of these interns will be used for future policy reports for both researchers and community planners. 

August 14th, 2019 marked the closing ceremony of the CUNY EDGE internships at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies. Snacks and drinks were served as the students reflected on the idea of civic engagement. Edwin Melendez, the director of Centro, chimed in during the ceremony on his hopes for a formative experience for the students during their six weeks at the center and reminding them just how important their work was. “Collaborating with other communities, celebrating our uniqueness and our culture. This is our background, this is our history,” Melendez commented.

The interns all completed the Puerto Rican Heritage Cultural Ambassador program and closed the ceremony by discussing general thoughts concerning the curriculum. “I got to learn each and every pioneer and their background in the United States. I learned different types of music. I felt like I knew Puerto Rico more and I’m more open to talk about my experience and defend others,” one intern said when touching on the Cultural Ambassador program. Another intern praised the program, touching on his enjoyment of the films the program provides and learning more on the rights of Puerto Ricans in the United States.

The Center for Puerto Rican Studies aims to continue taking advantage of the CUNY EDGE program in the future to provide students with opportunities to aid in research on Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico and the Diaspora.