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Many of Puerto Rico's 345,000 students have been hoping for some type of return to normalcy as the island continues its arduous recovery from the destruction of Hurricane Maria.
"They are traumatized because most of the students lost everything," Alma Santiago, a teacher at Su Demetrio Rivera School in Corozal, told TODAY Wednesday.
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Of the 1,100 public schools in the U.S. territory, 70 were too damaged to reopen, while 190 have been serving as community centers and 100 others have been acting as shelters for families who lost their homes in the Category 4 hurricane.
To help give students a lift as their communities rebuild, Al Roker headed to Puerto Rico on Wednesday as part of TODAY's "Lend a Hand" series in which he is visiting communities working to recover in the wake of devastating hurricanes. His trip came a day after he helped surprise needy families in the Houston area with much-needed supplies in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
At Su Demetrio Rivera School, teachers continue to come to work every day, some driving more than an hour, to prepare lessons despite not knowing when classes will officially resume. The majority of the island is still without power two months after the storm.
"Electricity would help, but the spirit compensates for anything that might be lacking," Julia Keleher, Puerto Rico's Secretary of Education, said on TODAY.
Miguel Luna, the principal of Dra. Antonia Saez School in San Juan, had to relocate his students to neighboring Martin Garcia Guisti middle school in Toa Baja after the hurricane blew the roof off his school.
"I'm feeling so happy to have all my students back, and we're looking to a better future,'' Luna told Al on TODAY.
Many of his students were living below the poverty line before the storm hit.
"Many of them come to school (and) they don't have nothing to eat,'' Luna said. "We are here for the students because they are the reason for us to be here."
Al teamed with Sheldon Yellen, the CEO of Belfor Property Restoration, the world's largest disaster restoration company, to help the students get back on their feet by filling a Belfor plane with school supplies.
Walmart, Staples, and Duracell joined with Belfor to make a donation of 35,000 pounds of school supplies like furniture, backpacks, notebooks and batteries that were delivered to Martin Garcia Guisti middle school on Wednesday. Students were welcomed to come take what they need from a truck loaded with supplies.
Yellen also presented Keleher with a check for $100,000 to help recovery efforts.
"I want you to know that we're here, and we're not leaving until we got you well on your way,'' Yellen told Keleher.
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