NCCS ready to accept children from Puerto Rico

Submitted Photo: Northern Chautauqua Catholic School is announcing a free tuition program for Hurricane Maria victims. The school can accommodate around 100 students. Pictured are Elizabeth Quattrone, NCCS board member, NCCS Principal Jenny Tilaro and Dunkirk City Clerk Edwin Ramos.

A few weeks have passed since Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico.

With many buildings and homes gone, families on the island are looking for a return to normalcy and could be on their way to be with loved ones who live locally. And with them will come children who have been displaced from many facets of their life, including school.

In lieu of the events, donations have poured in to the local relief collection zone in Dunkirk to support the cause, including from Northern Chautauqua Catholic School. In addition to donations through “NCCS Cares for Puerto Rico,” the school located at 336 Washington St., is opening its doors to children who soon could be arriving with their families.

Since the events, Principal Jenny Tilaro set out to work with Mayor Willie Rosas on outreach initiatives to the Hispanic community.

The idea for a year of free tuition for refugee children initially came from John Galley, school finance manager. Tilaro said it made sense between space available at the school and the need to assist refugee children.

“It’s important we open our doors,” Tilaro said. “At school, the kids follow what the Bible says. We need to model that same behavior.”

The idea took off as Sister Carol Cimino, superintendent of Catholic Schools Buffalo Diocese, acknowledged support of their pursuit to provide free education to refugee children for the school year.

Aside from the hurricane, Tilaro also noted that Puerto Rico closed 127 schools in May, and it sent approximately 10,000 students to other districts further away from their former school.

Northern Chautauqua Catholic School has enough room to accommodate around 100 students. Tilaro said it’s unknown at this point how many children would be making their way to the area.

“We’re working with the city, Edwin Ramos, city clerk, and the mayor to determine that,” she said. “By offering our school to these children, we hope to alleviate some of the stress in transition by providing them a smaller school setting with more of an individualized attention.”

Ramos said the extent of damage on the island as a result of Hurricane Maria is still being determined. But with reports detailing the nature of destruction, Ramos said people will come to the mainland where their relatives are located.

“What NCCS is doing is a wonderful thing. It’s wonderful to see this organization stepping up,” Ramos said. “This will help (children) get back to a routine and a structured day that will be incredible.”

Elizabeth Quattrone serves on the school’s board of trustees. She said opening the doors to children from Puerto Rico is part of the school’s mission of service to God and service to the community.

“School is a loving place that will offer a continued sense of belonging, love and concern for the children,” she said.

Tilaro said the school has enough uniforms and resources to pay for supplies. Tilaro said a private school in the Buffalo diocese is fundraising to gather supplies for the children as well.