Wildcats offer hope to Harvey victims, serve local community after Irma


Photo courtesy of Agustina Vincent

Senior Agustina Vincent drops off items donated to the National Honor Society charity drive at St. Bonaventure Catholic Church on Sept. 23.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma brought destruction to many towns in Texas and Florida, so in an effort to help restore these communities, students have banded together to provide outreach to those communities in need. Social studies teachers Lourdes Santiago and Carlos Velasquez suggested their classes write letters to students in Houston who were affected by Hurricane Harvey. Sophomore Sean Harkins wrote a letter to the students that incorporated words of encouragement.

“I wrote this letter because I saw how devastating the storm was and I wanted to lift someone’s spirits. I wanted them to know that the world believes in them,” Harkins said.

Sophomore Haley Berkowitz wrote a letter to the students of Houston as well.

“I wrote my condolences towards all of the families who were impacted by the storm. I couldn’t believe that something [this tragic] happened to these people, and there wasn’t much they could have done to prevent it. I wrote this letter in hopes to provide some reassurance to the families. The storm impacted their lives and I wanted to send a little hope in a time of such darkness,” Berkowitz said.

Like Berkowitz, other students offered their help to the local victims of Hurricane Irma. Junior Madeline Bolivar volunteered at New Florida Majority at Young at Art House, a disaster relief shelter in Fort Lauderdale. After finding the volunteer opportunity listed on Facebook, Bolivar enlisted the help of her friends, Cypress Bay junior Kaylin Ambrose and Nova sophomore Ian Elmowitz, to volunteer with her at the disaster relief shelter. Bolivar, Elmowitz and Ambrose gathered products such as batteries, gallons of water and canned goods to supply those in need.

“I had AC, I had power, so what was the point of me sitting there and doing nothing? Even in my free time, even if I don’t get service hours for it, I [felt] the need to go out into the community and help,” Bolivar said.

Senior Agustina Vincent also provided outreach for local Irma victims by organizing a charity drive with National Honor Society. The club members brought in two or more items each, such as canned food and clothing, to transport to St. Bonaventure Catholic Church. After the items were gathered, St. Bonaventure distributed the products to families in need of supplies around Broward County.

“There were so many items that we had almost five boxes filled to the brim,” Vincent said.

With the cooperation of all NHS members donating materials for St. Bonaventure, supplies were able to be shipped out to local citizens in need of basic items after the hurricane’s destruction.

Junior Emma Orantes traveled to the city of Marathon in the Florida Keys to clean up the city and offer support to the citizens. Orantes made the journey with her local church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, on three separate weekends from Sept. 2-17.

Orantes and the volunteers were responsible for sorting through the rubble and taking items out of the collapsed homes. Orantes said that as soon as she got to Marathon, her first job was to sort through a house that had collapsed and to bring items out of the home. Orantes said the home’s shutters had exploded and caused the windows to sink into the building. Once Orantes entered the home, she said the inside reeked of mold.

Once the belongings were taken out of the home, Orantes said the volunteers tore down the walls and took out home insulation so that the houses can be rebuilt. Orantes said she felt inspired to help with the devastation in the Florida Keys, so once her church offered the outreach opportunity, she felt the urgency to join the members on their expedition to Marathon.

“I feel like it was life changing. People are oblivious to the fact that people actually lost their homes,” Orantes said.

Students looking to provide outreach can check social media websites, like how Bolivar checked Facebook, or join clubs at our school, such as Project Life, that offer local community service opportunities.