September 2018
Jennifer Crusco
Communications Assistant

Puerto Rico Receives Support from Student-led Fiesta4Hope

Demarest, NJ: Academy of the Holy Angels students are following through on their promise to provide continued support to the people of Puerto Rico. After this summer’s service trip to help rebuild the hurricane ravaged island, Rianna LeHane of Pearl River, New York, and Catherine Bagin of Glen Ridge organized Fiesta4Hope, a group that has already raised thousands of dollars for Centro PASO, a small nonprofit based in Puerto Rico.

Gabriela Sandoval of Washington Township and Sydney Loverich of Mahwah, both of whom were part of the AHA service trip, serve on Fiesta4Hope’s advisory board.

LeHane said the group began by planning a fundraiser, but decided Fiesta4Hope could expand well beyond the organizers’ original expectations. They were right. These enterprising young women have already built a sizable network just by discussing their cause with friends, family members, local businesses, and a beloved celebrity. Fiesta4Hope is catching on at Saint Joseph Regional High School, Don Bosco, Immaculate Heart Academy, Northern Highlands, Cresskill, Glen Ridge, Pearl River (NY), and Newark Academies, according to LeHane.

“We have branches in local schools as well as in schools in Boston, Texas, and California. We created a logo, designed a website, set up a fundraising page, a gift registry, an Instagram, and a Facebook page,” she reported.

Fiesta4Hope earned support from Kelley Drye, Province, DDR Corp., and Tupperware, and from Lin-Manuel Miranda of “Hamilton” fame.

How did they attract the notable composer and Broadway star’s attention? “We emailed Lin-Manuel Miranda using an email on his website that is run by his father,” LeHane said. The students explained that they were organizing a fundraiser at a local school, and asked for his support.

“He told us that he was on a plane coming back from Puerto Rico when he read our email, and that we had no idea how happy it made him.” LeHane added that Miranda’s family made a contribution and the composer tweeted about the fundraiser.

Fiesta4Hope’s first event was held this earlier month at Saint Joseph Regional High School in Montvale, and netted $7,000. The students organized a garage sale/flea market with games, food trucks, and music. Proceeds from Fiesta4Hope events are sent directly to Centro PASO.

“Before we started collecting money, we reached out to Centro PASO via Facebook Messenger. Mary Miranda (no relation to Lin-Manuel Miranda), a member of the board of directors, has been our contact with PASO. When we told her about our plans, she said the day before they had been praying for a miracle to be able to run the center this year. She told us about what Centro PASO's goals were in terms of expanding and about all of the hardships they face due to the lack of proper resources and funds.

“Mary Miranda said that the pastor of their parish told them that God would find a way to get those items to them. She thinks the timing of our founding is related to that somehow.”

Based in a former school building in Aibonito, Puerto Rico, Centro PASO assists members of the community who are still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Maria. Despite having limited funds, Centro PASO provides job training, case management, family counseling, culinary and gardening lessons, a community dining hall, emergency food supplies and medical aid, and an after school program.

Centro PASO is now working to repurpose one of its buildings into a multi-office space where they can more efficiently work with local families. In addition, they hope to one day use solar energy.

“Katie and I both plan to bring this to college with us and hope to go back to Puerto Rico this summer,” LeHane added.

For additional information, email Details are also available at the organization’s website:

Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious high school serves young women from a broad spectrum of cultural and religious backgrounds. Over time, thousands of women have passed through AHA’s portals. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics. The Academy’s current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.


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