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UTEP and NMSU students travel to Puerto Rico to help rebuild after hurricanes

UTEP and NMSU students travel to Puerto Rico to help rebuild after hurricanes (Credit: KFOX14)

The island of Puerto Rico was devastated by hurricanes Irma and Maria. Almost a year later, the U.S. territory is still in need of help.

Early in the recovery effort, some help came from the borderland, specifically Doctor Ivonne Santiago and 51 students from UTEP and NMSU.

"The students were itching to do something to help the people of Puerto Rico and then, I'm from Puerto Rico originally so they contacted me and we did a total of trips,” Santiago said.

The goal was to build a suspension bridge to help bring back a sense of normalcy to one part of the island. It's a trip not many college students would take.

"I went into engineering as a resource for learning how to solve problems and how to help others," Daniel Castillo, UTEP student, said.

"I think it's all about the people there knowing that they were struggling and in need of a lot of things that they didn't have," Molly Williams, NMSU student, said.

Building the bridge came with a unique set of challenges.

"Sunscreen was really big. You don't want to get sunburned. You also wanted to consider wind and rain,” Albert Lozano, UTEP student, said.

You're in Puerto Rico and a tropical island. So, you definitely have to consider those things."

"I was the project manager so there was a lot of things thrown at my face.,” David Castellanos, NMSU student, said. “I did let stress take over me. And I'm going to commit to not allow the same mistake to happen again."

In the end, they helped build bridges in more ways than one.

"There were people crying, telling us, 'Thank you for what you're doing. This is a great thing that you guys are working, doing for us.' You know it's what they say, one person can make a difference,” Jennifer Arreola, UTEP student. said.

"Helping their government kind of realize that things need to be done,” Elizabeth Kane, NMSU student, said. “And, if they don't do it, people are willing to step up."

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