Puerto Rico High School Community Service

In 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck Puerto Rico, causing extensive damage and intensifying environmental and infrastructural challenges that have long impacted the U.S. territory. Work alongside residents, conservationists, and young Puerto Ricans to restore the island’s ecosystems and rebuild rural communities significantly impacted by the storms; and learn how innovative, locally based relief programs are changing the way organizations provide aid in the wake of natural disasters.

June 20 - July 3, 2019
July 5 - July 18, 2019
Airfare is not included. We have arranged a round-trip group flight between New York and San Juan.

Trip Highlights

  • Settle into a rural Puerto Rican town with limited access to aid, and lend a hand with rebuilding infrastructure devastated by Hurricane Maria.
  • Hike El Yunque National Forest, and help park conservationists with reforestation and trail maintenance.
  • Volunteer with World Central Kitchen and learn how the group’s novel approaches to disaster relief are revolutionizing emergency food programs.
  • Participate in reef restoration and beach clean-up projects alongside Puerto Rican environmentalists, and go swimming and snorkeling in the Caribbean.

Itinerary | 14 days

Days 1-3

Our journey begins in the centuries-old port city of San Juan, a melting pot of Spanish, African, and indigenous Taino influences. Immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture, and get introduced to organizations that are rebuilding the island’s infrastructure in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Days 4-6

Travel to El Yunque National Forest, a tropical rain forest severely damaged by recent hurricanes. Work with conservationists on reforestation initiatives, and hear from scientists and researchers with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about efforts to save vulnerable forest species. Meet lawyers and activists from the Puerto Rico Climate Change Council to discuss environmental justice and public health issues resulting from rising temperatures; and consider the viability of renewable energy sources for the island’s new power grid. Spend a day on the coast participating in coral reef restoration and beach clean-up projects alongside local volunteers.

Days 7-10

Venture to Adjuntas, a community in Puerto Rico’s rural interior with limited access to aid. Lend a hand with critical repairs, providing electricity and drinkable water to residents. Then work on longer-term projects, preparing village infrastructure to better withstand future storms. Learn about grassroots initiatives launched by young Puerto Ricans to increase agriculture and education in this impoverished area. Lend a hand restoring a local farm and learn about the struggles and accomplishments of agriculture in Puerto Rico. Travel west to the small town of Rincón and work with marine conservationists doing beach clean ups and water testing. Relax on the pristine beaches of Rincón in the afternoon and take a surfing lesson.

Days 11-14

Head to the coastal town of Manatí and meet with representatives from the World Central Kitchen, founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, who traveled to Puerto Rico immediately after Hurricane Maria hit. Andrés rallied local chefs and set up a sophisticated network of emergency kitchens and supply chains, serving more than three million meals in the months following the storm. Learn how the group has since shifted its mission, empowering residents to develop their own agricultural capabilities; and help with outreach initiatives at an island farm. In the afternoons, go snorkeling and kayaking, and relax on the local beach. Spend our final day in San Juan before flying back to New York.

Our community service trips are for students in grades 9-12. Students settle into a community and get involved with collaborative service projects that focus on infrastructure, education, or sustainability. Students work alongside local people, and document their experience through photos, journals, and video. Collaborative community projects provide an opportunity for deeper cultural interactions and insight into daily life in our host communities. Students travel alongside a team of highly-qualified trip leaders—college graduates with extensive experience in the field, who love working with students. Our community service trips are limited to 18 participants, and the student-to-trip-leader ratio is usually between six and eight to one and never more than nine to one.
Students will spend an estimated 35–40 hours on community service projects. At the end of the program, students will receive a certificate stating the number of service hours completed. Projects described in this itinerary are examples and vary depending on the needs of the community.
The group sleeps in sleeping bags on the floor of local schools. Sleeping areas and bathrooms are separated by gender. We prepare our meals alongside volunteers from the communities. In San Juan and Manatí, we stay in small, family-run hotels.