Displaced Puerto Rican students head back to school in Central Florida

Hurricane Maria ravaged island nation about a year ago

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – About 1,600 students displaced by Hurricane Maria have started a new school year in Osceola County. 

Benn, 9, and Kamila Medina Claudio, 7, are part of a group of students who came from Puerto Rico in October last year following the storm. Their home on the island is still in pieces from Maria, which is why they now call Central Florida home. 

"Different areas of Puerto Rico are at different development terms of getting back on their feet, with power, light and school closures." said Belinda Reyes, the executive director for multicultural curriculum, instruction and compliance at the School District of Osceola County. 

She explained they had 2,700 students who came from Puerto Rico last year after Maria. 

During this past summer, she said the district provided programs to make sure those students were getting the help they needed. 

"Just the offerings of English Language Learners, weekly, we would offer three to four camps. This summer we offered 18," Reyes said. 

Benn and Kamila are still getting used to the English language and are about to start fifth and third grade, respectively, at Boggy Creek Elementary. 

"Our students who joined us due to Hurricane Maria, that absolutely raised our numbers. We are now up with 27 percent with English Language Learners," Reyes said.

The students range from VPK to 12th grade.

"As for as much as we did for the students who came due to Hurricane Maria, they did something for us. They brought resiliency, they brought stories of hope and they brought with them a drive like you've never seen." Reyes said. 

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