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Tompkins Cortland Grad Helps with Puerto Rico Recovery Effort

July 2, 2018

Jonathan Hatala knew $1,200 wasn’t enough to help Puerto Rico. A member of the Tompkins Cortland Class of 2018, Jonathan was a Chancellor’s Award winner and a member of STAND’s (Students Take Action and Negotiate Dialogue) Fall 2017 fundraising effort to send supplies and money to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. But after meeting a woman who had family still on the island, he realized that effort wasn’t enough.

“Our conversation really moved me,” said Jonathan, who will be attending Columbia University in New York City in the fall. “I just felt like I wanted to more and that I needed to figure out a way to get down the Puerto Rico.” Enter SUNY.

As part of the summer-long NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovering and Building Initiative, SUNY, in partnership with NECHAMA – Jewish Response to Disaster, was offering two separate for-credit opportunities for students to volunteer on the island. The first group went to Puerto Rico on June 17 with 100 students; the second group left July 1 – with Jonathan included.

“We will be staying around San Juan and working in three communities,” he said. “We will work on repairing homes, concrete roofs, tin roofs, demolition, tree work … a lot of rubble and trash removal too.” Jonathan joined the trip as part of a contingent from SUNY Geneseo, one of the SUNY schools offering the trip.

“I was about to leave for the TC3 study abroad trip to Colombia (Jonathan was a teaching assistant on the trip this year), and it pops up that there is an opening on this trip,” he said. “I had to have the application in the day before we left, but I got it in and then found out when I got back.”

Along with the Colombia trip and the Puerto Rico trip, Jonathan has also spent time this summer sorting out housing in NYC for Columbia University this fall.

“It’s been a busy summer,” he said.

Jonathan Hatala talking with a local resident during his trip to Puerto Rico
Jonathan Hatala talking with a local resident during his trip to Puerto Rico