Junior nursing major Audrey White’s family did not celebrate Thanksgiving 2013 at home.

More than a year after Hurricane Sandy blasted across the Jersey Shore, the Whites are still working to make their Mantoloking home inhabitable again.

On the bright side, however, Audrey is still at Wagner, working toward her degree.

Thanks to alumni, parents, and friends of the College, Wagner raised $60,000 to address Hurricane Sandy-related needs, such as additional financial aid for seven students whose families were severely impacted by the storm.

Mantoloking, where White grew up and where her mother’s family has lived for three generations, was one of the hardest-hit towns in New Jersey. Much of the town is still in shambles, but the Whites were determined to rebuild their dream home. The family is the first in Mantoloking to have raised their house, installing nine-foot pilings on which the structure now sits to keep it above any future floods. In the meantime, the family has moved from one short-term rental to the next, while dealing with a string of delays in their efforts to return.

For White, it has been a stressful and discouraging year. “I’m still distracted [from school],” she says. “I’m always wondering when I get to go home.”

A year after Hurricane Sandy’s floodwaters swamped Oakwood Beach in Staten Island, including the home of Hayley Semo ’16, she was approaching the storm’s anniversary with trepidation. “Now that we’re getting closer and closer to the date, there is anxiety,” she said in early October 2013. “What if it happens again?”

Nevertheless, she is thriving in her sophomore year at Wagner, for which she also received additional financial aid. Her family’s house is almost completely restored, and she is leasing a new car to replace the one destroyed in the storm. She has declared a major in biology, is in the pre-health program with the ambition of becoming a veterinarian, and is interning at the Staten Island Zoo.

The student-organized relief group WagnerCares has also stayed active in helping the community. Students are volunteering with Project Hospitality’s Long-Term Sandy Recovery Team on Staten Island, and WagnerCares is in the process of hiring Wagner students as interns to conduct outreach and gather data on community needs for storm recovery. The organization is also expanding its scope to encompass other causes locally, nationally, and internationally.


Photo Credit: Tree and roof damage on the Pape House on October 30, 2012; and the same view almost a year later, on September 5, 2012. Photos by Lee Manchester.