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Determined to Make a Difference in Puerto Rico

by Noel Quiñones

Last June, fifteen students along with three faculty members of the BFS community traveled to Puerto Rico for a Solidarity Immersion Experience organized by the Office of Service Learning & Civic Engagement in collaboration with community partners. There we engaged in a week of immersive experiences, meeting with various activists, community organizers, and artists, to learn about the history of Puerto Rico before, during, and after Hurricane Irma and Maria.

As part of their participation, students committed themselves to ongoing advocacy for the island after we returned. During this school year the group has been meeting bimonthly to continue to educate ourselves and our community about ways to support Puerto Rico. We spoke with the youth leaders we worked with in Puerto Rico to ask them what was going on since we visited as well as discussed the lack of news coverage on the current state of the island.

Most recently we organized an Upper School Collection presentation on our time in Puerto Rico. We shared the impact of this experience on us as well as ways we could continue the conversation surrounding Puerto Rico. On March 11 we welcomed Elizabeth Yeampierre and Ting Ting Fu from UPROSE Brooklyn to inform us about their work with climate justice.

As Minerva Macarrulla, Class of 2019, observed, “I had never met someone who so thoroughly lived out the urgency with which climate change is coming toward us and its intersections with human oppression.”

They shared concrete ways to support efforts on the ground in Puerto Rico such as raising money to support specific, vetted organizations and towns, raising awareness of Puerto Rico through social media, and engaging in a self-assessment of our individual / collective capacity to take action (considering what skills we can offer). We look forward to our meeting in April to close out our solidarity efforts for the year.


Founded in 1966, UPROSE is Brooklyn’s oldest Latino community-based organization. An intergenerational, multi-racial, nationally recognized community organization, UPROSE promotes sustainability and resiliency in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood through community organizing, education, indigenous and youth leadership development, and cultural/artistic expression. Central to their work is advocacy to ensure meaningful community engagement, participatory community planning practices, and sustainable development with justice and governmental accountability.

Elizabeth Yeampierre is an internationally recognized Puerto Rican attorney and environmental and climate justice leader of African and Indigenous ancestry born and raised in New York City. A national leader in climate justice movement, Elizabeth is the co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance and Executive Director of UPROSE Brooklyn.