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Students from Puerto Rico finding success in Pasco County schools after Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria brought hundreds to Tampa Bay area
Posted at 4:48 PM, Mar 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-09 16:48:02-05

LAND O'LAKES, Fla. — Giliane Calderon used to think of high school in the United States like something out a movie.

“High School Musical,” she laughed.

The 15-year-old says she tried to go back to school in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

“They tried to start it up, but then it collapsed again because we didn’t have any light or water in our school so it was chaos.”

That’s when her family decided, sending her to America to finish 10th grade would be the best option.

They had a friend in Pasco County who made the offer to house her.

And next thing Gilane knew, she was enrolled at Land O’ Lakes High School.

“Honestly, at first I was really freaking out.”

The Pasco County School district says they have about 220 displaced students who are in school here or taking online classes.

Thousands more are in other places around the state.

Officials say they are working to help Puerto Rican high school juniors and seniors get diplomas from their schools back home.

Meanwhile, Gilane says making new friends has made the change so much easier.

“Back home you are friends with people because it’s such a small place. You have to be friends with them. But here when people are your friends. They genuinely want to be your friend,” she said.

And as far as her grades... “I’m doing way better than back home.”

Calderon says she will finish out the school year and then decide about staying longer. 

But is she is excited about going back home to see her family during spring break.