QUEENS — In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, New Yorkers are looking for any way they can help Puerto Ricans and while some are doing it with material support, a group of students out of Queens are helping through communication.
A radio program launched out of The Garden School in Jackson Heights just two years ago began as an extracurricular activity, but is now a passion project for more than 20 students involved.
They're taking the skills they've learned to now connect loved ones in New York with family and friends in Puerto Rico.
More than two weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, modern forms of communication on the Puerto Rico remain virtually cut off, so students at Garden School wanted to do more. Their teacher and founder of the Amateur Radio Club K2GSG, John Hale helped them do just that.
"I think for the kids it gives them the empowerment that they can help. It lets them get a one to one connection," said Hale.
Students receive messages by email, then transfer those messages to a Radiogram form using no more than 25 words. The radiogram is sent out through what's known as the Big Apple Net and the National Traffic System and from there the message is relayed from New York, New Jersey and Florida and then eventually to Puerto Rico. It is then left up to emergency radio networks set up by the likes of the Salvation Army, Red Cross or FEMA to transmit out to Puerto Ricans.
"We have to revert back to things we can rely on like radio and even though it may seem archaic, it works," said Garden School Senior, Jasmine Petrov.
President of the club, Lea Marie Medina said, "I think of these messages, I read them and I say this needs to be done and that's what I wake up to every morning."
The radio club's equipment was donated to the school by an alumni and the New York Hall of Science Radio Club. The program within a city school is one of the only ones of its kind in the New York area.
If you would like to get a message transmitted to Puerto Rico, you can email the school and its students at K2GSG@gardenschool.org. Make sure to include as many personal details of the person you are trying to reach as possible, including name, address, phone number and email address.