Anchorage’s Spanish-immersion students raise thousands for sister school in Puerto Rico

Spanish-immersion students in Anchorage are well on their way to a goal of raising $10,000 to benefit fellow students in Puerto Rico hit hard by Hurricane Maria.

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That includes Romig Middle School’s sister school in Puerto Rico, teacher Anaely Leon-Hernandez said.

Groups of Spanish immersion students from Anchorage have been visiting the island for about 10 years, visiting historic sites and parts of the jungle there, among other places, Leon-Hernandez said.

“The highlight of our trip is when we go and visit this small little school in Quebradillas, Puerto Rico, where there’s only about 400 students,” Leon-Hernandez said. “And it’s just a small little community that has opened their school, they open their homes, they open their hearts to us, so we’ve gotten to know them very well.”

It was that connection and all the friends they’ve made over the years that led the students to want to help in the wake of the hurricane, Leon-Hernandez said.

Wednesday morning at Romig and West High, students held a one-minute fundraiser to gather money to donate to their sister school in Quebradillas. Some students came bearing checks for as much as $100, while others gave what they had on them: the change in their pockets.

Leon-Hernandez said that between the two schools they’ve raised about $7,500.

Her student, 8th grader Areli Olivares, said it was important for the students to help out after hearing about the hurricane.

“I was so sad, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, are my friends OK?’ Over here, we’re doing fine, everything, over there, they could use the help,” Olivares said.

For another Romig 8th grader in the Spanish-immersion program, the hurricane posed a threat to not just friends, but also family. It took about a week for Javier Bosques to learn that his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins were OK.

His worries got Bosques thinking about other families struggling in Puerto Rico, just like his family.

“I love them all, they all mean so much to me,” Bosques said. “You see people struggling, and you would want to help them, and every little bit counts. It’ll make a big difference to families.”

To try to meet their goal of $10,000 for the school, Romig is hosting another fundraiser, and this one is open to the community. It’ll be a potluck at the school on October 13, from 5:30 to 8 p.m., complete with pictures and stories from the students’ trips to Puerto Rico.

Casey Grove is host of Alaska News Nightly, a general assignment reporter and an editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at Read more about Casey here

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