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updated: 11/6/2017 7:29 AM

Lester: IMSA's Torres shares story of hurricane help in Puerto Rico

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Illinois Math and Science Academy President Jose Torres says he was drawn to Puerto Rico in Hurricane Maria's aftermath to check up on his mother, brother and aunts who live there.

But he spent three weeks in his native land helping with a variety of cleanup efforts -- everything from replanting trees and cleaning up rubbish to volunteering with Puerto Rico's Department of Education to draft documents helping displaced Puerto Rican students settle into schools in the continental U.S., as the island spends the months ahead recovering from the devastating Category 4 storm.

Upon returning to the Aurora campus for gifted students this week, Torres recorded a 10-minute video, complete with pictures of the devastation he saw on his trip, which has been posted on YouTube.

"I've talked to so many people who wanted to know about my travels I wanted to do a short video," he said.

While his family was not physically harmed by the storm, Torres described "this glazed look of sadness" and a "sense of desperation, impatience and sense of loss" among residents. "My mom was in tears every so often," he said.

No power until March?

Before traveling to Puerto Rico, Torres said he dismissed reports that electricity might not be restored on the island until January. Upon visiting, he said, he learned some areas actually won't have power until March. On Oct. 24, 113 schools out of more than 1,000 reopened, he said. "There are signs that there's a lot of help coming," he said, at the same time describing daily frustrations, like four-hour traffic jams and barren grocery stores. Watch the whole account at

Harding's next pageant

Best of luck to Schaumburg Business Association President Kaili Harding as she competes in the Illinois International Pageant Nov. 10-12 in Northbrook. Harding, a former Mrs. America Illinois and Ms. Illinois Galaxy, tells me she's been prepping to tell judges about her work advocating for Type 1 diabetes awareness -- a condition her 9-year-old daughter Eisleigh was diagnosed with at age 3.

Harding also noted the competition focuses on a social media presence -- so you can check out her pageant prep, everything from eyebrow microblading (really, just check it out) to charity work with her two daughters.

Pfleger in the 'burbs

Outspoken activist priest the Rev. Michael Pfleger is coming to the suburbs Nov. 18. Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Parish, is scheduled to celebrate a 6 p.m. Mass at St. Thomas Becket Parish in Mount Prospect. Pfleger has served at St. Sabina since the 1980s, but began his time in the priesthood in the suburbs at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Glenview, which my own mom grew up attending.

Women's division of interfaith coalition

Meanwhile, the Rev. Corey Brost's interfaith Children of Abraham Coalition has a women's only division, The Daughters of Abraham. It's hosting an interfaith conversation on Tuesday with Sabeeha Reman, author of Threading my Prayer Rug at Temple Chai, 1670 Checker Road, Long Grove.

Breuder oral arguments

Also on Tuesday, my colleague Robert Sanchez and I will be covering oral arguments at the U.S. Appellate Court concerning the College of DuPage's effort to dismiss former President Robert Breuder's unlawful termination suit against the college. Breuder is seeking more than $10 million in damages. Watch for our coverage by following us on Twitter and in these pages.

Johnny hockey?

Hat tip (or rather, hat trick) to my colleague, photographer Joe Lewnard, for letting me know that his beer league teammate at the Men's Hockey League in Buffalo Grove is none other than new state Rep. Jonathan Carroll of Northbrook. Carroll, who replaced former state Rep. Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook, was nicknamed "Johnny Hockey" by fellow teammates for carrying his sticks and equipment in separate bags. They're now jokingly calling him "Johnny Springfield" as he's missing ice time to head to the capitol.