Viera students step up to help Puerto Rico


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Viera High students Juliana Johnson, left, Keyanna Kramer and Alanis Colon helped lead the school's effort to provide aid to people in Puerto Rico following the devastation left behind by Hurricane Maria.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

 

When Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, a number of Viera High students stepped in to help.

Working with teachers Christy Miller and Gabriel Torres, the students began a drive to collect water, toiletries, canned food, batteries, linens, dog food and baby food — among other items — during a two-week period that ended last month.

“We joined forces and our students really stepped up,” Miller said. “They found the organization to donate to. They were the point of contact between the organization and our school. They did all the advertising. They put the flyers out, made posters and made sure it was pushed out on social media.

“They really did a phenomenal job of getting the word out.”

Torres, a math teacher and the Student Government Association advisor, said he was approached by sophomore Alanis Colon and senior Keyanna Kramer at different times, but on the same day, to see if they could help set up a relief effort. They even had the charity — United for Puerto Rico — picked out.

Miller, the Science Department Chair, also was talking to students in the school’s Science National Honor Society, about coming to Puerto Rico’s aid.

Senior Juliana Johnson immediately stepped up, along with a number of other students, and together the students worked tirelessly before school, during lunch and after school to help get the word out and collect donations.

“It was either the first or second day, I went to the office to pick stuff up and I started crying because of how much stuff was there,” Johnson said. “We were all crying.

“It’s amazing to see people come together and help. Our little community is branching out and not even just people from the school. More people are coming in to donate stuff. It’s just amazing.”

Although there was no telling exactly how many items were collected, it was enough to fill three trucks.

“This drive has been far more successful than what I had anticipated,” Torres wrote in an email. “I don’t have an estimate on the number of items, but I can say that we are very pleased with the outcome. I am very proud of our Viera High School students, faculty and staff and of our Viera community.”

Miller, who like Torres has family in Puerto Rico, also was moved by the community’s reaction. Local businesses collected items and even her neighbors dropped off donations in front of her garage after she posted a message on Facebook.

It brought out the best in everyone.

“It’s nice to see that, despite any differences that anyone has, the humanity is still there,” Miller said. “Every time a bag or a box (came) in … there aren’t enough thank yous to give to people.”