Students from the State University College at Oneonta are volunteering in Puerto Rico this summer, assisting in recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria destroyed much of the U.S. territory’s landscape and many homes.

A group of 11 students recently returned from a trip with geography faculty members, and three other students — Ivette Mendoza, Julia Beattie and Jenna Ferraro — are among a select group of SUNY students chosen to participate in the “NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative” organized by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Eight months after the disaster, there is still an extensive need for assistance in Puerto Rico. Blue tarps serve as shelters for many residents whose homes were destroyed. The Oneonta students worked with NECHAMA, a volunteer-driven nonprofit headquartered in Minnesota, to work on roofing and painting in the San Juan area from June 30 to July 7.

Skylar Claud, an environmental sustainability major from Leicester, said the first house the group worked on was home to a woman who had lived there for 50 years, and that families contributed in the rebuilding process and made volunteers feel welcome.

In April, Cuomo announced the NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative, an effort that includes sending a large number of SUNY and CUNY students to Puerto Rico, which started on June 17. As part of the initiative, students take part in a two-week program where they receive college credit for working to help the citizens that are still impacted and left homeless due to the catastrophic hurricane and its destruction.

Claud said she previously volunteered through the college on a trip to restore wetlands in New Orleans and has traveled to Guatemala to test water.

“I just know I want to help people," she said, "so getting this experience lets me know what I can do with my major and how I can impact the world."

Erin Jerome, staff writer, may be reached at (607) 441-7221, or at ejerome@thedailystar.com. Follow her on Twitter at @DS_ErinJ .

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