Crisis in Puerto Rico hits 'close to home' for Abington student

Abington Puerto Rico student

Marianella Romero's mother and step-father (pictured) are in Puerto Rico searching for her grandparents.

Credit: Regina Broscius

ABINGTON, Pa. — Since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico last month, a number of Penn State Abington students have been anxiously waiting to hear from family and friends who live there.

The situation “hits very close to home,” said sophomore Marianella Romero.

Her mom, a 28-year Air Force veteran, and step-dad left for the island last week to search for her elderly grandparents in a rural area two hours from San Juan.

“My mom and I talk a little bit, but it takes a while for the messages to get through since cellphone service is so limited,” she said. “It’s hard, and I’m upset. I want everyone to be okay.”

At her mom’s urging, Romero is directing her energy into mobilizing the Abington community to help the citizens of Puerto Rico. She and other members of the student organization Sister2Sister, many of whom have relatives on the island, are staging a collection drive called, “It’s Time to Take Action,” through Oct. 19.

Romero approached Tina Vance-Knight, Sister2Sister adviser and director of the Center for Career & Professional Development, for assistance.

“Tina gathered all of the resources that she possibly could to support the drive,” Romero said.

“Not everyone is in the economic position to give large amounts of money, but telling other people about the drive doesn’t cost anything,” the first-generation college student said. “If you can’t donate, we are just asking you to have the heart to think of other people. Put yourself in their shoes. They are human beings. Take time to consider what they are going through.”

Abington Puerto Rico student

Marinella Romero is the driving force behind a Penn State Abington collection drive to benefit Puerto Rico.

Credit: Regina Broscius

Romero, who hails from the northern New Jersey town of Piscataway, said she keeps her mind off of her parents and grandparents by working hard. And she has plenty of work to do.

This semester the biological anthropology major is carrying 18 credits including two courses in anthropology and one in criminal justice. A cello player for nine years, she also enrolled in an orchestra class. Outside the classroom, she is active in Sister2Sister and the Abington Christian Fellowship.

Penn State Abington, formerly the Ogontz campus, offers baccalaureate degrees in 19 majors at its suburban location just north of Philadelphia. Nearly half of our 4,000 students complete all four years at Abington, with opportunities in undergraduate research, the Schreyer honors program, NCAA Division III athletics, and more. Students can start the first two years of more than 160 Penn State majors at Abington and complete their degrees at University Park or another campus.