Students from Puerto Rico get free school supplies

700 books handed out during event

By Vanessa Araiza - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Thousands of students from Puerto Rico are enrolling in Central Florida schools. 

School leaders say they're more than welcome, but as students make their way to the mainland, many are coming with just a few bags. 

Families have been forced to leave almost everything behind and start fresh. 

Local and national organizations wanted to help with that. 

Tuesday morning, students waited with anticipation in Riverdale Elementary school's cafeteria. 

On the stage behind a big green curtain sat what they would soon get their hands and eyes on. 

Thanks to a partnership between Yoobi, A Gift for Teaching and The Kids in Need Foundation, students now have books and fun school materials to use in the classroom. 

"If we can welcome the students from Puerto Rico and say here's something to start the new school year with the supplies that's terrific," said David Smith, executive director of the Kids in Need Foundation. 

Organizations chose Riverdale partly because of the influx of students from Puerto Rico.

Arieliss Valencia and her family relocated to Florida from Puerto Rico in October, after Hurricane Maria.

"I left a lot of things. My kids left a lot of things but I said, 'We're going to start over anyway,'" Valencia said. 

Valencia and her family came with the clothes on their backs and a total of six bags. 
    
Many of the things left behind in Puerto Rico were her children's books.
    
It's a loss for her avid readers. 

Tuesday, her son was gifted with four new books to help rebuild his collection.

"You know, I haven't been able to find employment yet and it's hard for me to be able to buy him a book. You know, so right now one book, I'm grateful. Four books is awesome," Valencia said. 

Justin Wolff with Yoobi said the organization is already working on supplying Puerto Rico with supplies. 

"We have an additional, I believe, 15,000 kids supply sets for kids which we have allocated and are planning to send to Puerto Rico directly," Wolff said. 

He said the joy he sees from students receiving the books and materials is a gift in itself and humbling. 

"When did crayons become a privilege or when did pencils become a privilege. So, when we go and we hand these supplies out to the kids oftentimes you're going to hear these kids say, 'This is better than my birthday or this is better than Christmas,'" Wolff said. 

Seven hundred books were handed out to students Tuesday, along with 1,800 boxes of supplies

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