UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When September hurricanes left a path of destruction in Puerto Rico, Pennsylvania College of Technology student Natascha G. Santaella felt a variety of painful emotions.
“I spent around six days stressing and having a very hard time with me having all the luxuries I currently do and my family not having any,” the Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, resident said.
Santaella said that her hometown is without power and water, and downed trees are blocking access to the neighborhood park, but it was spared the worst damage.
“For some of my friends, the damage has been minimal, but for a lot more of them, they live in fear of being assaulted in their own homes,” Santaella said. “They feel helpless in the situation, and mostly they are scared of what is to come. I’ve still not been able to contact my father’s side of the family, but I hope they are well and being cared for.”
To alleviate her stress, Santaella immersed herself in what she knows best: baking.
“It started out as just baking bread and shipping it to the island to then be dispersed to the people, but I found that was very expensive for me to do alone, so I spoke with Chef Charles Niedermyer (instructor of baking and pastry arts/culinary arts), and from then it became a full fundraiser.”
Santaella, who plans to earn an associate degree in baking and pastry arts in December and then to pursue a Penn College bachelor’s degree in applied management, went to work to organize a sale of baked goods in the college’s Bush Campus Center.
“Natascha is a bright, energetic young lady with a big heart,” Niedermyer said. “I was not surprised to find her in my office, looking for ways to help the people of Puerto Rico. She committed a lot of extra time and hard work to making this fundraiser such a big success. We are fortunate to have such leaders among our students at the college.”
To prepare, Santaella had multiple meetings with Niedermyer, spent hours finalizing recipes, planned the structure of her sale, designed signage and decorations, marketed the event, and recruited friends to staff the sale table with her. She was prepared with those skills in the Advanced Baking and Pastry Operations course she took last spring.
And then there was the baking: Santaella and two friends in the baking and pastry arts major, Ally T. Monborne and Danielle R. Wesneski, both of Williamsport, spent six hours baking 90 loaves of bread, 24 dozen dinner rolls and 30 cheesecakes in a variety of flavors. Employees from Student Activities and the School of Business & Hospitality made donations toward the cost of ingredients.
During the six-hour sale, Santaella and her friends raised more than $1,000 for United for Puerto Rico, an initiative brought forth by the First Lady of Puerto Rico, Beatriz Rosselló, in collaboration with the private sector to provide aid and support to those affected in Puerto Rico by the passage of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. One hundred percent of United for Puerto Rico’s proceeds help those affected by these natural disasters in Puerto Rico.
“I hope to mainly increase awareness of what has happened, and to show people that there are Puerto Rican students at this school,” Santaella said. “I hope that others had the great experience I had with all my teachers and how understanding they were with me.”
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