Daniela Valdes Bennett and Ana Garcia, visiting students through the NYU Hurricane Maria Assistance Program, in Bobst Library at NYU. Photo by Claire Tighe
When Puerto Rican college students Ana Garcia and Daniela Valdes Bennett applied to transfer to NYU for their spring semester after surviving two hurricanes, they kept it a secret from each other. The friends broke the news through emojis — an airplane, followed by another airplane and an American flag.
“I texted her saying, ‘Hey, I have news,’” said Bennett. “Ana said, ‘I have news too.’ And we freaked out.”
Garcia and Bennett are two of the 57 students admitted to NYU for the Spring 2018 semester through the Hurricane Maria Assistance Program. Through the program, NYU covers full tuition, a meal plan, housing and health insurance for students whose educations were interrupted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria last fall.
“There were over 400 applications and several hundred more that were not completed,” said Josh Taylor, Associate Vice Chancellor of Global Programs at NYU. “We prioritized students with challenging living situations, no internet and who attended campuses with no electricity.”
Other major universities, including Tulane, Cornell and Brown, are offering similar programs this spring.
Bennett and Garcia decided to transfer after barely managing one semester on the recovering island. Throughout the fall semester, closed classrooms, destroyed equipment and loss of power made studying nearly impossible.
Garcia’s school was closed for weeks due to the storms.
“Water came through the roof and ruined all the computers, everything,” Garcia said. “When the school opened again, we were taking classes in different places. It was a mess. When classes resumed, the power wasn’t guaranteed.”
Today, 131 days after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans on the island continue to struggle with the lack of reliable power. According to status.pr, 69% of the island has electricity, leaving 450,000 people currently without power. Garcia’s family completely lost power for four months. For Bennett’s, it was three and a half months, but they still have intermittent outages.
“Just this morning my family lost power again,” said Bennett. “It’s coming and going. Talking to them on the phone makes me kind of sad to know that they are still there. My twin brother is still studying in Puerto Rico and he keeps calling me saying, “‘I’m so jealous of you.’ I know it’s hard for them.”
During the fall semester, both students did homework using flashlights and candles. To do research, they drained their cell phone batteries and used what little data they had. When it was time to recharge, they took their laptops and phones to local cafes and waited along with dozens of other people who shared surge protectors and outlets.
“There were so many lines,” said Garcia. “For everything.”
At the cafes, the young women submitted their applications to NYU, which felt like a much-needed relief from the stress in the aftermath of the storms.
“The situation is just so overwhelming,” said Garcia. “You can’t think of anything but getting your power back and being able to shower with hot water.”
For Garcia, the chance to attend NYU for the spring seemed like a second chance to buckle down after a semester lost to the hurricanes.
“I found out that I had gotten into the program while I was at the bakery charging my phone and my laptop,” said Garcia. “And then I started crying and the people at the bakery were like, ‘Are you okay?’ And I was like, ‘Yea, I’m just really excited. This is good news.”
On campus at NYU, the transfer students feel embraced by their peers, despite the differences in their experiences.
“As soon as I told my roommates I was from Puerto Rico, they asked me about the hurricane,” said Bennett. “They sat around the table and I told them all of my stories and they were like, ‘Oh my god, wow.’
But the visiting students feel like their peers aren’t talking about Puerto Rico as much as they should be.
“I do feel like a lot of people have forgotten about it,” said Bennett. “People think it’s over and there has been so much progress, so I don’t want to complain. But it’s not over yet.”
By Wyatt Salsbury
News package covering Race for Kids, an event put on by Youth Inc. and Royal Bank of Canada to raise money and awareness of children living in poverty in New York City.
By Dale Isip
Simone Assboeck describes her life as a dance instructor in New York City.
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The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant melted down in March 2011, and many families from that area, most specifically children, were affected. Since the crisis, The Fukushima Kids Summer Camp has helped thousands of Fukushima affected children socially and educationally through their camps. Sharing their experiences and expressing their gratitude for the camp, some children share their stories at the Japan Society in New York City.
Meet Kennedy the lead singer of Kennedy Administration, a New York-based groove band out of Greenwich Village.
Paul Sanchez, a New York photographer, on how he started his career and why he loves photographing in New York.
Singer Taiwan Norris, practices at the Riverside Church in Harlem, NY in preparation for his Carnegie Hall debut.
A panel discussion with leaders in childhood education that took place at the Sheen Center last Sunday addressed the negative public perception of the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
Launched in 2009, The Common Core is a state-led effort to ensure that students, regardless of where they reside, are meeting standards for college and entry-level job positions, but the initiatives have been met with strong resistance from parents and students who think that the testing is excessive and unnecessary.
“Common Core seems to have come out of left field,” said Daniel Weisberg, CEO of the New Teacher Project. “It’s a huge change. We’re not just talking about some different textbooks we’re talking about different ways of teaching.”
Weisberg, along with panelists New York State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia, and New York City School Chancellor Carmen Farin, brought national, statewide and New York City perspectives to the drawbacks of the new learning standards.
The panelists addressed that the programs were, in some cases, rolled out as mandates. The lack of communication, of “selling” the idea of the Common Core to parents, made the initiative seem like excessive testing and unnecessary new ways of teaching old subjects, they said. Adding to the confusion, Weisberg notes, was lack of preparation and implementation problems in states that waited “until the last minute” to adopt the standards.
These problems contributed to a negative perception of the seemingly mandated standardized testing, and in this year’s PDK/Gallup Poll only 24% of adults said they were in support of the Common Core, leaving more than half in opposition who have been turning to retaliation in the form of opting out. In an analysis conducted by the New York Times, in New York State approximately 165,000, that’s one in every six children, passed on at least one of the two standardized tests this year.
“The communication stream on Common Core just virtually didn’t exist, if it did it got by nearly everyone in the state,” said Elia.
She said that having data on how well students are doing is integral to giving teachers resources as they transition into a new pedagogical style. The high percentage of opt outs skews the data, so Elia, within three weeks of taking over the position as commissioner, has hired a new company to revamp the test to make it less stressful for students.
“You don’t change assessments on a dime,” Elia said. “But we’re going to be shortening up the assessment to the greatest extent that we can this coming April. That’s one thing I heard from parents and teachers in the district…. And as we move forward with the new company we are infusing the development of the assessments with teachers’ input. “
The panel discussion was attended by 65 people who were mostly educators and parents in support of the Common Core Learning Standards and Universal Pre-Kindergarten.
“I see both sides,” said Christina Oliver, who works for the national non-profit Classroom Inc. that develops literacy learning games for struggling students. “The idea that your children could potentially be having multiple tests without understanding the value and purpose of those tests can be overwhelming. I sympathize with the stress of that choice, but from an educator’s standpoint it’s hard to make decisions without the data.”