Siblings from hurricane-torn Puerto Rico say transition to BAHS has been 'really good’
If you ask Wilner and Wilmarys Torres what their favorite things are about Bellefonte Area High School, they’ll likely say the cafeteria and school lunches. They also gave a shout out to many teachers and students who helped them transition to a new school.
The brother-sister duo, a senior and freshman, moved in November to Bellefonte from the hurricane-torn Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico – a decision made by their mother so the siblings could continue their education.
“Some people lost everything,” Wilmarys said. “We didn’t have school for a couple months, so my mom decided it was best for us to come here with family and continue studying because she wanted us to have a better education. If we were to stay there, we had the possibility of not going on. I’m in ninth grade, but it was possible at my old school that I would not be able to pass to 10th grade, and so she wanted him (Wilner) to graduate and me to pass.”
Never having transferred to a new school, let alone one in the United States, came with nerves -- yet it was a surprisingly smooth adjustment, they said.
“At first I was nervous about changing schools because this is not something we have done before, but everyone has been helpful,” Wilner said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it’s been OK.”
His sister added with enthusiasm, “The adjustment was really good. We met a lot of good people who would approach us and show us where class was and they would take time to explain and help us.” She even said her math teacher went out of his way to translate some of the information to Spanish. And when asked what their favorite thing is about BAHS, they both said the cafeteria food.
“The cafeteria is better, the food is amazing and I love the pizza,” Wilmarys said. “We didn’t have that at our old school, so getting it here every day is awesome.”
On the other hand the hardest part, they explained, was adjusting to the winters. Their hometown of Juana Diaz is on the tropical side of Puerto Rico that averages an annual temperature of about 80 degrees. The average high, according to Weatherbase, is about 90 degrees, while the lows are just less than 70 degrees.
“We never seen snow before; it’s not like this there, so when we got here we were getting sick all the time because it was hard to adjust to the cold,” Wilmarys said with a laugh.
Their hometown is slowly rebuilding, they said, and the decision to stay in the Bellefonte area may be long-term.
“My dad said we probably will wait to go back until after I graduate,” Wilmarys said. “They want me to stay at one school. ... I think it’s a good thing.”
*By Brit Milazzo, public relations director, BASD