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CMSD joins collaborative to aid Puerto Rican families

Bienvenidos a Cleveland




As families displaced by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico continue to pour into Cleveland, CMSD has partnered with other local organizations to help provide resources for the newcomers.

Bienvenidos a Cleveland was initiated through the efforts of Cuyahoga Community College, Esperanza Inc., the Spanish American Committee and CMSD. The collaborative has launched a website, hosted by Tri-C, that includes a directory for resources like housing, transportation, medical assistance and clothing. 

Senaida Perez, the family engagement coordinator in the CMSD Multilingual Multicultural Education Office, is one of the people representing CMSD in the collaborative.

“I’m keeping them informed of what we’re seeing in regards to students coming in and the areas of need,” Perez said.

Hundreds of families have arrived in Cleveland from the island since September. Most come with few belongings or plans for employment or permanent housing. The first stop for those with children is often CMSD’s Multilingual Multicultural Welcome Center at the Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy.  

Perez has helped to enroll more than 220 children in CMSD schools so far. The District has also provided school supplies and uniforms recieved through donations, though Perez said supplies are running low as the influx of families continues.

Read more: Displaced Puerto Rican families start new lives in Cleveland  

Perez and Rick McIntosh, CMSD executive director of school choice and enrollment, joined representatives from Tri-C, the Committee and other local agencies at a recent meeting to share what they believe are the families' biggest needs. Many parents and caregivers who have come to the District from Puerto Rico are in need of employment assistance, mental health care, diapers and household items, Perez told the group. 

The collaborative aims to consolidate helpful information in one place where families can connect with the agencies and organizations that are ready and eager to help. 

Thanks to the work of the collaborative, some parents have already been offered jobs, Perez said. That is good news for newcomers who are seeking a place to live but need proof of employment to apply.

In addition to the website, the Spanish American Committee has five employees working full time to assist these families, said Ramonita Vargas, the committee's executive director. This can mean anything from helping them find childcare to filling out FEMA applications.

The website presents the information in both Spanish and English.

It also includes a form where agencies that wish to help can register to be added to the resource directory. Questions about the collaborative or the website should be directed to