ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - More than 2,600 students from hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico are now in Orange County schools and there are efforts underway to ensure the students are adjusting to their new life.
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Yerianna Roldan, who is now a senior at Colonial High School, couldn’t hold back the tears as she described what she missed most about her home.
“My family, my food, my house. Everything is different here,” she said. “Everything changed. I have a different perspective of everything. I never thought I would finish high school in the United States.”
The 180 Puerto Rican evacuees at the school each have their own story. Some came with their parents; others had to leave loved ones behind.
“My mom calls me every morning. It never fails. She texts me in the morning, ‘How are you? Are you awake?’ It breaks my heart every day,” said senior Oxzen Casta.
Hilda Tolentino specializes in crisis intervention, and she’s been working around the clock for the storm victims at the school, which took in more students than any other school in Orange County.
“Once they come in, they are in shock. They will not talk to you,” Tolentino said. “When they’re ready, we make the connection. The counselors come to the school and see them during noncore class, because we want them to be successful.”
Every day brings new challenges. Even transferring school records has been a struggle.
“I was helping with the translation calling the island. They have power; they were able to answer the phone, but they have no access to a fax,” said Tolentino.
But the students are on track to graduate—not where or how they imagined, but they’re resilient and they know they’re not alone.
“You may not know our story by just looking at us, but we needed the support,” said Casta.
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