Already a poor community, Toa Baja Pueblo was one of the barrios hit hardest during Hurricane Maria. The elementary school, middle school and high school were completely flooded - with concrete walls buckling under the pressure of water. Today only one of the three schools, Adolfina Irizarry de Puig High School, has reopened and received electricity on January 22nd, 2018 (125 days after Hurricane Maria.) Over 800 children are forced to go to school in a building only meant to hold a third of that number. The children's schedule has been cut in half, only allowing them to attend class for four hours a day. The older students attend classes in the morning and the younger students in the afternoon. Teachers and community organizers want to make sure kids know how important school is and that there are people rooting for them.

And so the idea of the Pueblo Pen Pal Project was born.


The Pueblo Pen Pal Project aim to directly connect children in classrooms in New York and Toa Baja Pueblo to write to one another. The themes will be open however, we encourage kids to write about the reality of their situation and to steer each other to stay in school and to share school activities. As important as it is to continue to rebuild the physical structures of the community that have been destroyed, it's equally as important to rebuild a sense of self worth to young people in this community. We believe sharing stories will help do that. 

The HOW:

Right now we have 83 students from grades 3-6 that are confirmed to write letters from Adolfina Irizarry de Puig High School. We plan to pair classes in Toa Baja Pueblo with classes in New York of the same age range. For example a third grade class in the Bronx will be paired to a third grade class in Toja Baja Pueblo. Teachers can write to teachers also!

The first group of letters from Puerto Rico will be delivered to New York by March 19, 2018. We’ll get these letters to their respective classrooms by March 30th. NY Students must have letters ready for collection by April 30th.



The first group of students in Puerto Rico will be writing letters first to the students in NYC in English. The students in New York will either write in Spanish or their letters will be translated before sending to the students. If you are a teacher that doesn’t have the the ability to translate we can coordinate translation. We will be working with the Spanish Club and Spanish Honor Society students at Preston High School in the Bronx to help bridge the communication between students in Toa Baja and New York. 



We want to continue to collect a database of classrooms that would be willing to participate in New York as we continue to recruit more students and teachers in this town and others in Puerto Rico.

If interested in joining this initiative, please reach out to Amanda Sabater at with your name, class level, number of students and Spanish speaking or written ability. Please specify your students ability as well and whether letters from your class can be received or written in Spanish and/or English.


The Pueblo Pen Pal Project is a collaboration between NextRound Productions & The Validation Project. We are not affiliated with the Department of Education. We’re private citizens working to connect people.