MIDLOTHIAN — The Spanish Club at Midlothian Heritage High School brought the entire school together to help raise funds for relief efforts in Puerto Rico with a talent show. A Puerto Rican resident, who is also the mother of a Heritage Spanish teacher Lourdes Ocasio, was there to judge the performances.

Students in the Spanish club raised funds both independently and together through shirts sales that increased awareness about relief efforts. While those who participated in the show raised funds individually, the talent show gave all students the opportunity to donate. The club’s goal was to raise $1,000. After the show, Ocasio said the school has raised over $1,500. 

The idea to help Puerto Rico stemmed from a math teacher, Carter McClung. He approached Ocasio, who’s parents and grandparents live in Puerto Rico. She also was born and raised there.

Ocasio said, “When I talked to him, he said ‘a lot of times there is a disconnect because you don’t know people from those places.’ It impacted him in a different way.”

She added, “I feel like it’s one of those things where I realize how special the school is that we’re at, and the community that we are part of. The fact that this wasn’t even my idea, that someone else came up with this and everyone has been so supportive.”

After Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico, leaving portions of the country without electricity even to this day, Ocasio’s mother, Lourdes Russe, had planned to come to Texas and to stay until early December. With Russe already being in town, it was the perfect opportunity for her to help judge the talent show.

“We are feeling very grateful and touched to have this support from the principal, students and the staff. It’s just amazing,” Russe said.

Russe lives on the coast in Humacao, located on the southeast coast of the island where Maria hit. When reflecting on the relief efforts, Russe said, “Everybody is doing what they can. People have come together to help each other.”

“They tried to do the best," She added. "This was a first experience for the government and the people. At the beginning, because not all the towns had roads cleared or roads were gone. Those places are still struggling.”

The United States military and FEMA have done the best they can in Russe’s experience living there and said Puerto Ricans are incredibly grateful. “I just have to say 'thank you,' and I know the people think the same,” Russe said.

When reflecting on the first days of the hurricane, Russe said there was no power, water or communication.

“My family was far away. You really have to be strong and have your faith because that’s the only thing that can hold you in those moments,” she explained.

Russe said the community north of her was stricken and is still heavily damaged to this day. She said she can’t complain about her circumstances when looking at the people who are rebuilding from scratch.

“I had tears in my eyes, still. It’s very emotional," Russe said. "I know there is compassion. I’m ready to go home and tell everybody and everybody that I’ve told already say ‘Oh my gosh, that’s really cool.'”