Students at the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University are raising money for relief efforts in the Bahamas, devastated this week by Hurricane Dorian.
The central Minnesota colleges have a long connection with the Bahamas, through the Benedictine monasteries that established branches on the islands.
Students from the Bahamas began attending St. John's and St. Ben's in the 1950s and 1960s. About 1,200 alumni of the two colleges live on the islands, including both the president and provost of the University of the Bahamas.
There are 68 Bahamian students currently attending either St. John's or St. Ben's, said Mary Hinton, president of the College of St. Benedict.
"It's heartbreaking when you see this type of destruction anywhere,” Hinton said. “But when you look into the eyes of the 68 young people you've been entrusted with and you know, the fear and the concern and longing that they're experiencing, and you’re journeying personally with them — it takes it to a different level."
Many of the students attending the two colleges are from Nassau, which wasn’t hit as hard as places like the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama. Still, Hinton said, nearly everyone has family on one of those islands.
“So, while a student’s individual homes may not have been impacted, surely they know someone who has,” she said.
Contacting loved ones has been a challenge because of compromised cellphone networks, so there’s “a lot of uncertainty,” Hinton said.
Students on the two campuses are holding drives and raising funds online and offline for relief efforts.