Lake Mary HS student & relief aid volunteer Christina Cardona: No quick fix for Puerto Rico

Headline Surfer video and photos / Christina Cardona, a 17-year-old Lake Mary High senior of Puerto Rican descent, and a volunteer in the Seminole County School District's massive disaster relief drive for Puerto Rico, reflects on the dire situation on the island in the video segment. The relief effort was organized by her mom, Minnie Cardona, the district's director of English to Speakers of Other Languages.



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LAKE MARY, Fla. -- The Seminole County School district has seen a dramatic spike in student enrollment in the past couple of weeks.

Dramatic enough to fill the equivalent of three classrooms, district officials say. 

The sudden influx comes from families leaving Puerto Rico, many of them to Central Florida since the massive devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. 

"We have had 66 students from Puerto Rico families register for school in the past couple of weeks, Minnie Cardona, the district's director of English to Speakers of Other Languages or ESOL, told Headline Surfer. 

"We have had 66 students from Puerto Rico families register for school in the past couple of weeks, Minnie Cardona, the district's director of English to Speakers of Other Languages or ESOL, told Headline Surfer. 

Cardona, who has the task of coordinating placement of the students within the district's schools, also organized the recent disaster relief drive for Puerto Rico. Among the three dozen volunteers assisting her was her 17-year-old daughter, Christina Cardona, a senior at Lake Mary High School, who was asked her sentiments in a multimedia video segment included with this story. 

The younger Cardona, born and raised here in Lake Mary, understands that her 80-year-old grandmother who has survived breast cancer is making a go of it despite the lack of resources, including no electricity and a scarcity of water. She refuses to break down and cry.

 “I think that Puerto Rico will be built back up to what it once was. It will take a while. It will probably cost a lot. But I think with enough time, it probably will.”

The Cordonas and other volunteers such as School Board Chairwoman Amy Linville Lockhart and Vice Chairwoman Tina Calderone, packed enough relief supplies donated by Seminole County citizens to fill four large moving trucks. The items were shipped out by air to Puerto Rico earlier this month. 

Minnie Cardona estimated the relief supplies – including, but not limited to canned foods, bottled water, diapers, soaps, toilet paper, personal hygiene products, flashlights and batteries – totals in excess of $50,000, with more donations coming in daily. Newer donations will be used to help recent Puerto Rican families who relocated to Seminole County from Puerto Rico and those expecting to do the same in the coming weeks and months.

The situation in Puerto Rico remains dire with three more deaths in recent days, bringing the death toll to 48 as of today, the government there has said. And more than 110 people remain unaccounted for, according to Karixia Ortiz, a spokeswoman for Puerto Rico’s Department of Public Safety. Two of the recent deaths were attributed to leptospirosis, which spreads when the urine of infected animals gets into drinking water, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz told CNN.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Cruz told the cable news outlet. "We are now starting to see a lot of health issues… So, we are in a great effort, a great humanitarian effort.”

As of Friday, 89% of the island was still without electricity and nearly 47% had no phone service, according to a website the Puerto Rican government set up after Hurricane Maria struck the island. 

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló citing an “unprecedented catastrophe,” has lobbied Capitol Hill for a significant new influx of money  with the island on the brink of “a massive liquidity crisis."

More than 400,000 Puerto Ricans have moved to the US mainland in. the last decade, according to the Pew Research Center. Puerto Rico now has 3.4 million residents. High unemployment, rising taxes and few job opportunities outside of tourism, are cited in the report for the exodus of native Puerto Ricans, who are American citizens by birth on the island. 

Even before Hurricane Maria, resettlement from the island to the US, and Central and South Florida in particular, had been ongoing over the more traditional New York and Chicago destinations of decades past.

Seminole County's Minnie Cardona said 73% of students in the ESOL program she oversees are from Puerto Rico. 

"We have to do everything we can to try to help these families who are arriving almost daily now," Cardona said.





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Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via since 2008. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed close to a hundred award-winning byline stories nearly evenly split in print and digital platforms. Frederick earned his Master of Arts in New Media Journalism with academic honors from Full Sail University in Winter Park in February 2019. He was a metro reporter with the Daytona Beach News-Journal for nearly a decade and then served as a city editor for the Taunton Daily Gazette in Taunton, Mass, while maintaining a residence in Central Florida. Prior to moving to Florida, Frederick was a metro reporter for the Rockland Journal-News in West Nyack, NY, for seven years. Headline Surfer was named the Sunshine State's top internet news site by the Florida Press Club in 2018.