For a Better Tomorrow

College of Arts and Architecture student Kayla Corazzi collaborated with faculty member Kristin Sommese and alumna Kelly Thompson, founder of ViequesLove, to design a logo for the nonprofit providing relief to victims of Hurricane Maria.

From her childhood home of Galeton in northern Pennsylvania, Penn State Graphic Design alumna Kelly Thompson launched and continues to lead a relief effort for her adopted home of Vieques, Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria in late September.

On September 20, while a category-five hurricane was battering the small island located eight miles east of the Puerto Rican mainland, Thompson established ViequesLove, knowing the island would need help—and quickly. What started as a GoFundMe to raise $50,000 grew into an organization capable of providing immediate support to the island before government relief arrived. ViequesLove has now raised more than $900,000.

As a graphic designer—and with ViequesLove growing quickly—Thompson realized she needed a logo to represent the organization. So she turned to her friend and former Penn State professor Kristin Sommese, who immediately pulled some current Graphic Design students together to design potential logos. In a whirlwind weekend, 12 students submitted designs to Thompson, who ultimately chose a logo created by undergraduate Kayla Corazzi.

“Helping others in need through service is something I am very passionate about,” said Corazzi, who is vice president of Boulevard, a Penn State community service organization. “Knowing I had the opportunity to potentially make an impact on people truly in need through my passion for graphic design is what made me want to tackle this project.”

Corazzi and classmates in the studio

Corazzi and classmates in the studio

Graphic design student Kayla Corazzi collaborates with her professor, Kristin Sommese, and classmates on a logo for ViequesLove, a relief fundraising effort for Puerto Ricans affected by Hurricane Maria.

Image: Michelle Bixby

“Knowing I had the opportunity to potentially make an impact on people truly in need through my passion for graphic design is what made me want to tackle this project.” - Kayla Corazzi, graphic design student

ViequesLove has made an impact from the start. The organization coordinated one of the first flights to land on the island runway post-hurricane—five days after the storm—armed with much-needed satellite phones and other supplies that allowed communication within the island and also between Vieques and the continental United States.

“Being among the first people from the outside world to successfully get help into the island thrust our team into a level of responsibility that none of us anticipated—but all of us embraced,” said Thompson, who has lived on Vieques for the past 14 years. “We took leaves of absence from work, put aside family and other obligations, and worked intently on the needs communicated to us by our team on the ground. Our sole purpose is to work for a better tomorrow for Vieques.”

Thompson, founder and publisher of Vieques Insider magazine, had left the island with her daughter in early September when Hurricane Irma left Vieques’ fragile electric grid without power. So when Hurricane Maria hit, she knew she had to do something. Her husband had remained on the island to manage rental properties, and it was days before she connected with him.

“When I started the ViequesLove GoFundMe page, I was thinking of family, friends, and neighbors still on the island needing help in any possible way. Having lived on Vieques for 14 years, I was paralyzed with the fear of knowing the level of destruction a category-five hurricane would likely have on the delicate infrastructure of the island. I set a goal of $50,000, a target I thought was ambitious at the time. I was completely unaware of just how much faith and trust the world was about to place in my hands.”

ViequesLove now has a team of volunteers on the ground and in cities like Chicago and Washington, D.C., still servicing immediate needs on the island and also looking for ways to better prepare the island for the future. “We’re not disaster relief experts—we’re full-time workers, single parents, and other people who simply want to help Vieques and who have a vision for a better tomorrow,” said Thompson.

“We’re not disaster relief experts—we’re full-time workers, single parents, and other people who simply want to help Vieques and who have a vision for a better tomorrow.” - Kelly Thompson, alumna and founder of ViequesLove

That vision is communicated through Corazzi’s logo, which features an outstretched hand, in orange, with other elements reminiscent of leaves and water in kelly green, bright blue, red, and yellow. With the tagline “Community Empowered for a Better Tomorrow,” the logo, Thompson said, “will serve as a symbol of a more sustainable future.”

ViequesLove logo

ViequesLove logo

The logo created by Penn State student Kayla Corazzi for ViequesLove.

Image: Kayla Corazzi

"The logo will serve as a symbol of a more sustainable future.” - Kelly Thompson

Sommese said she was proud to see her students gather so quickly to help others in need through their design work. “They definitely had a real-world problem and gained real-world experience working on this project. The students were so professional and felt a great sense of satisfaction knowing they were using their abilities for a good cause,” she said. “Kelly is an amazing woman, and to work with her after all these years was wonderful. I was so honored she thought to reach out to me.” 

According to Thompson, the students really came through for her. “I was amazed at what they produced, with minimal art direction, and under stressful conditions. It was like having a team of professionals on my side.”

Corazzi said the experience of designing the logo was invaluable. “I designed the logo in the graphic design studio, so I was surrounded by my peers who were also working on this project and they were able to offer me suggestions and constructive criticism,” explained Kayla, who spent a week perfecting her design in consultation with Thompson and Sommese. “I am extremely honored and excited that my logo was chosen for ViequesLove.”

As the money continues to come in, ViequesLove is working to increase communication with the island and consulting with existing non-profit groups in order to determine how to best use the funds. “A disaster like this shows just how important effective communication is. With no telephone, cell service, or internet, it is difficult to effectively and responsibly determine a path for the island.”   

Thompson said that when she formed ViequesLove, she and the other volunteers had no idea what lay ahead. “None of us on the ViequesLove team woke up on September 20, 2017, knowing that fewer than 24 hours later, we would become the volunteer guardians of the enormous level of trust and expectation that you have bestowed upon us. That said, we are proud to have stepped into this role and we take this responsibility very seriously.”

For more information or to make a donation, visit ViequesLove on Facebook.