In late March, New Ventures Charter School student Lanena Rosario and her family faced tragedy when their three-story home caught fire and burned to the ground. While no one was severely injured in the incident, many of their house pets did not survive and nearly all of their belongings were lost in the ruins of disaster.
Forced into homelessness, Lanena’s mother, Michelle Rosario, who was rushed to the hospital on emergency medical support, began to reach out to Staten Island elected officials and other organizations for assistance in rebuilding their lives. At first, The Red Cross provided temporary accommodations to the family at a discounted rate; however, further housing placements were denied.
Throughout this difficult time, Lanena was not attending school and the Rosario’s began to lose hope in ever returning to stability. Being a transfer high school, we believe in second chances. Without hesitation, Principal Melis wrote a letter to the property manager of Tysens Lanes apartment complex for relocation options in an effort to help the struggling family quickly move past their troubles. “Sometimes life throws us unexpected curveballs that are difficult to navigate. In the blink of an eye, any one of us can lose our home, family members, or a valued possession,” Principal Melis writes. “It is in times like these that we must rally together and support one another so that we may have the opportunity to persevere through these challenges. This can only happen TOGETHER as a TEAM.”
With a successful move, the Rosario’s were appreciative of the kindness, though the support did not end there. The safety, security, and well-being of our students are a priority and great cooperation was needed in order to get the Rosario’s back on their feet. Even in her absence, the New Ventures staff checked in with Lanena daily to ensure that she and her family were doing well. Led by Florence Guarnera Strzebala, New Ventures’ Acting Director of Special Education, the school community gathered to collect money for the family. “When you hear about one of your students losing their home and personal belongings to a fire, your heart automatically sinks so deep into your chest and the first thing you ask yourself is “what can you do to help?”,” she shares. “At that moment you want to do all that you can and more. Throughout this devastating time, our New Ventures family came together to support Lanena and her family. Their return to normalcy hasn’t been easy, and during this tragic time it has shown us that with love, encouragement, and perseverance anything is possible.”
With a stroke of luck, the family also received a call from New York City Council member Steven Matteo, who was eager to assist in whatever way possible. With thousands of dollars in donations made through an online fundraiser, the Rosario’s are well on their way to reaching their goal and finally starting over. In her beautiful words of gratitude towards our staff, Lanena’s mother reminds us to “Never let the bad days define what tomorrow will be. Find the strength to push the clouds away and allow others to help you pave your way to sunshine.”