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2019 The David Teeuwen Student Journalism Award, Large Newsroom finalist

Puerto Rico: Restless and Resilient

About the Project

On Sept. 20, 2017, the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico was devastated by the most powerful hurricane to hit the island in 85 years, leaving its 3.6 million residents – the vast majority U.S. citizens – without power, without potable water, with severely damaged infrastructure and with little hope for a quick recovery.

In March 2018, 19 graduate and undergraduate students of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University traveled to Puerto Rico to assess recovery efforts.

The students found and documented in videos, photos and words that large segments of the island were still in dire straits. An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 U.S. citizens were without power six months after the hurricane. While larger urban areas like the capital city of San Juan had returned to a semblance of normalcy, many residents of small towns along the coasts and in the mountainous central regions were still lacking basic services and living in homes with blue tarps for roofs while struggling to reopen schools and businesses and rebuild their homes.

But the students also found a determined, resilient populace: children returning to school and pledging allegiance to their homeland; doctors working to help those in need; neighbors helping neighbors; volunteers from the mainland U.S. helping to rebuild; and government workers trying to overcome bureaucratic roadblocks to deliver much needed food, health care and service.

“Puerto Rico: Restless and Resilient” is the result of their reporting. The project includes a 20-minute video documentary and 11 multimedia stories. The documentary was also translated into Spanish and aired on Univision in Puerto Rico.