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Wednesday, December 13 Local

Puerto Rican students welcomed to Bridgeport

Maria Marrero, 17, is a high school senior who misses her friends.

But Hurricane Maria last month ravaged Carolina, the town where she lives on the outskirts of San Juan, knocking out power to her school, Gilberto Concepcion De Gracia School.

No one knows when it will be restored.

So it was decided for the time being, Marrero would come live with her sister, Iris Lozado, in Bridgeport. She arrived on Sunday.

“It was not a hard decision, she’s family,” Lozado said. “She is hoping temporary. She wants to go home.”

Still clutching paperwork from Bassick High School, where Marrero will start classes Friday, Lozado brought her younger sister to City Hall on Thursday.

Mayor Joseph Ganim was there with book bags to welcome Marrero as well as Jan Casiano, 13 and Juan Casiano, 12, who also arrived Sunday on a flight from Puerto Rico.

Marrero’s book bag was green, matching her new school’s colors.

“I am glad you got to come here and be part of our community,” Ganim told them. “I hope this is a good place for you to be for however long that happens to be.”

The brothers came with an aunt, Ariadna Correa. Another aunt and uncle — Suheily Martinez and Jose Casiano — who live in Bridgeport are putting them all up. Both boys will be enrolled at Luis Munoz Marin school starting next week.

“We are not sure if it will be short term or long term,” Martinez, said.

The family lives near Bridgeport Hospital and has three children of their own, one at Hall School and two others at Achievement First.

Both boys are in the seventh grade. Ganim told him he remembers switching schools in the seventh grade.

“Someone will come up and make friends,” Ganim assured them.

City schools announced earlier this week they were throwing out the welcome mat for any students displaced from the Hurricane-ravaged island who came to live with relatives. Federal law requires them to do so.

Bridgeport has more than 30,000 residents of Puerto Rican descent.

Schools Superintendent Aresta Johnson said so far six students displaced from Puerto Rico have arrived in the district. She expects more.

The Casiano brothers, who spent several years in Texas before moving to Bayamon, Puerto Rico, both know English. They came with a suitcase full of clothes but little else.

The aunt who arrived with them, said their apartment was flooded during the storm.

“It was scary,” Juan Casiano said. The family huddled in a hallway for two days. When they finally emerged, they found fallen trees and broken buildings everywhere.

The boys said they have seen no one come to their town to offer assistance in the storm’s aftermath.

Marrero said it was a week after the hurricane before any help arrived to her neighborhood — and then it was just water and gasoline.

Tree trunks and cables still block many roadways. Cell phone signals are impossible to find.

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Alma Maya, an aide to the mayor, was at the book bag presentation and said she is headed to Puerto Rico this weekend to collect her mother.

”My mom is in suburbs of San Juan, 10 minutes from the airport and still has no power,” Maya said.

On Wednesday, Maya said two of her moms neighbors died.

“They are older. They can’t take the heat and can not stand in lines for water.”

No one, Maya added, has knocked on doors in her mother’s neighborhood offering assistance.

Maya doesn’t expect her mom will stay in Bridgeport, but she is determined to keep her at least until power is restored.

Linda Conner Lambeck|Education Reporter

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