Advancing the Cubuy-Lomas Community Services and Development Center in Puerto Rico

Sponsoring Organization: ID Shaliah Inc.

Team Members: Walter Conway (Mechanical Engineering ’23), Makayla Delo (Architectural Engineering ’23), Shelby Tweedie (Biomedical Engineering ’23), and Nicholas Willey (Civil Engineering ’23)

Advisors: Professor Scott Jiusto and Professor Gbetonmasse Somasse

Download the full report

Download the visual report

Download the final presentation

Download the Community Center Guide and Toolkit

Visit the Cubuy-Lomas Community Center Website


Many communities In Puerto Rico continue to suffer the effects of Hurricane Maria and a wave of school closures in 2017. In 2020, Javier Valedon and his organization ID Shaliah Inc. began renovating a vacant school building into a community center for the residents of Cubuy-Lomas. The goal of our project was to facilitate our sponsors’ missions by improving the visibility of the center, expanding the center’s outreach network, documenting the vision for the center, and assembling a library of resources for this project and others. We have created tools for our sponsors and future WPI teams to continue to approach funding strategies and networking with similar community centers in Puerto Rico.

Photo of the two Cubuy-Lomas IQP teams, advisors, sponsors, and volunteers.












In developing areas like Puerto Rico, where accessibility to several essential resources is limited, some communities can rely on government assistance as a form of support during times of need, whereas dire situations often force small, rural communities, like Cubuy, located in the municipality of Canóvanas in Puerto Rico, to rely on a strong and cohesive community presence to support themselves. Despite being a territory of the United States, the island of Puerto Rico has a history of self-dependance from the time that the United States colonized the island in 1898 (Kunstler, 1992). In the last decade, one manifestation of how insufficient government support has impacted Puerto Rico was the United States’ poorly coordinated response to Hurricane Maria. In Cubuy, issues surrounding access to reliable and clean water, medical supplies, services and equipment, food, and sufficient shelter, among other things, have thus plagued the community since the Hurricane. A lack of government support has contributed to another significant problem on the island: school closures, more than 300 in less than three years (Singh, 2019). Paradoxically, abandoned school buildings have become a beacon of hope for communities seeking to recover, rebuild, and prepare for the future. In the small town of Cubuy, an organization called ID Shaliah Inc. was founded by Javier Valedon in 2020 to help deliver essential resources including food and medical supplies to the community. ID Shaliah is now renovating a vacant school building in Cubuy to develop a community and resiliency center for the Cubuy and Lomas communities.

Mission and Objectives

The ultimate goal of this project was to contribute to ID Shaliah mission of organizing a community center to meet the needs of the residents of Cubuy-Lomas. We set out to achieve this goal through the following objectives:

  1. Assess perceptions of the residents about the community center and their consistency with the sponsors’ vision.
  2. Improve the visibility of the community center through different forms of media.
  3. Design an outreach plan for the development of strategic partnerships.
  4. Develop a library of resources and tools for the continued development of the Cubuy community center and similar projects.

Rooms of Possibilities for Advancing the Cubuy-Lomas Community Center

Assessment of Community Center Perceptions

We sought information on the history and culture of the members of the community, as well as information on what programs and services are currently available in Cubuy. We interviewed four ID Shaliah volunteers and concluded that:

Interviewing the community center volunteers

  1. The sponsors’ plans for the programs and services that will be offered at the community center address the real needs of the community.
  2. The community’s strengths lie in their ability to take initiative to unite, rebuild and support themselves in desperate times.
  3.  The main priorities of the community are access to medical and pharmaceutical services, a consistent source of water and electricity, and reliable shelter, in addition to security, phone service, and transportation, respectively.
  4. The community faces its greatest challenges with respect to poverty, its remote location, and the difficulty of receiving external assistance.


Improving Visibility of the Community Center

To successfully market the Center to the general community, other organizations and companies, and stakeholders, we sought to develop an online presence in several different formats to make information easily accessible. We increased community center visibility by creating a website, a 360-degree tour of the site, computerized visualizations of the future designs of the center, a social media campaign, and a brochure. The key deliverables produced for improving visibility for the center include the following:

Website: We created the Cubuy-Lomas Community Services & Development Center website, where all of the information pertaining to the community center can be accessed either directly on the site or through linked platforms so people can learn about the center and make donations. The website has the option to be viewed in both English and Spanish, and there are versions for a mobile device or a computer. The site features 6 pages: Home, Virtual Tour, Programs & Services, About, Ways to Give, and Reach Out. The 360-degree tour, the images of the room transformations, and the links to the center’s social media platforms are all embedded in the website, among a number of other features.

360-Degree Tour: Encompassing the entire campus, this tour provides a walkthrough of the site with stops at each significant space. Users can click through the tour on a computer or a smart phone, or take the tour with the virtual reality option. At the beginning of the tour, users are greeted with a welcome message and a site directory for navigation. Information icons in each room provide specific information about how the space will be utilized. This virtual tour is accessible through the CloudPano website, Google Streets, and the Cubuy-Lomas Community Services & Development Center website. The purpose of this tour was to allow people to view the site of the community center and learn about each space without being at the center.

Cafe Transformation Model

CAD Models: We also created renderings displaying what each unfinished space in the interior and exterior of the community center is projected to look like. Current images of the center were edited using Photoshop to display the exteriors of each building with fresh paint. For interiors, Revit and SketchUp models display each room with paint, furnishings, and décor. The visuals will allow the sponsors to show finished products to potential investors to demonstrate where the project is heading.

Social Media: To advertise and update the public about the community center’s progress on different social media platforms, we created a public Instagram page for the community center, which was linked to the pre-existing Facebook page. By linking the two pages, posts created on one platform are now automatically being posted to the other. During our time in Puerto Rico, we shared posts about the center’s mission, plans, and progress. This initiative allowed us to set the sponsors up for the future by creating the accounts, securing a set of followers, and providing examples of content to post.

Brochure: To advertise the community center to community members who may not have internet access, we also created a brochure. The trifold brochure, available in both English and Spanish, includes information about the mission of the community center and what programs and services it has to offer. The brochure is a tangible resource that can be updated and can regularly distributed, or available to pick up at the center.

Designing Outreach Plans for Developing Strategic Partnerships

Another aspect of this project was creating a long-term partnership between our sponsors and the WPI Puerto Rico Project Center. Because of the increasing popularity of the initiative to repurpose old buildings into community centers in Puerto Rico, we also wanted to connect our sponsors and the directors of the Puerto Rico Project Center with the leaders of the organizations who are tackling these projects in other communities on the island. We designed an outreach plan to provide the sponsors with methods for connecting and developing relationships with potential partners by developing an organized contact spreadsheet and drafting an email template. In addition, we assembled helpful information in our Community Center Planning Guide & Toolkit.

Library of Resources for the Cubuy Center and Others

To compile all of our sponsors’ plans and visions, we created a working document complete with general guidance, suggestions, and resources for community center planning, as well as site-specific details including CAD models, budget templates, and plans for programming and services. The Community Center Planning Guide & Toolkit aims to accomplish two goals: provide other similar projects with information on how to build and maintain a community center, and provide future management with a comprehensive toolkit documenting how the project center has progressed so far. As a result, the document is separated into two distinct parts: I. Community Center Development: General Planning Guide, and II. Cubuy-Lomas Community Services & Development Center Site-Specific Toolkit. Therefore, the document can be viewed in its entirety or each part can be distributed to different audiences.


Each of these recommendations stems from the suggestions outlined in the Community Center Planning Guide:

Use the Community Center Planning Guide to plan next steps, beginning with community center operations. Begin this process by organizing the logistics of how the center’s programs and services will be operated, followed by a cost analysis of the programs and services. Although short-term development is important, form a long-term implementation plan to outline how the team will work to achieve the ultimate goals of the project.

Generate support from the community to begin seeking funding. We recommend that the sponsors, or future project teams, continuously update the website and the social media platforms. Use the brochure as a template to create a regular newsletter to distribute to the community, or other means in the Community Center Planning Guide to update the public about the center. Document the support of the community through petitions or recording the center’s usage to strengthen applications for financial assistance.

Utilize the contact lists and a personalized version of the email template included in out toolkit for outreach. When seeking funds and support for the community center, tailor the process to the target audience to effectively engage each potential stakeholder. There are several other outreach techniques outlined in the Community Center Planning Guide & Toolkit.

Create a formal budget. Further information is included in the Community Center Planning Guide & Toolkit. We recommend using the tools we provided to generate interest from potential donors, as well as the suggestions in the Community Center Planning Guide. The team recommends pursuing grants as the most substantial source of funding for the community center and hosting fundraising events at the center to engage the community and generate income.

 When the center is operating, refer to the evaluation methods in the Community Center Planning Guide & Toolkit. We recommend using services analyses by recording the program usage to understand the level of demand of each service and evaluating the community’s responses to additions and changes in programs using periodic surveys.


This project was the beginning of a new partnership between the WPI Puerto Rico Project Center and ID Shaliah Inc. Throughout the course of the project period, we developed meaningful relationships with our sponsors and the volunteers who we interacted with during our time in Cubuy. Using the tools we created, we have helped lay the groundwork for our sponsors to continue to develop the center, showcase the center’s progress, and promote the center to the public. We envision future project groups continuing the work that we have done to progress forward with securing funding, as well as expanding the network connecting our sponsors, the WPI Puerto Rico Project Center directors, and other organizations working on community center projects in Puerto Rico. There are several initiatives being organized to facilitate the utilization of abandoned schools into community centers. We see the value in connecting the leaders of these projects with one another to share insights with each other to achieve the broad goal of creating a stronger Puerto Rico one community at a time. We anticipate that the Cubuy-Lomas Community Services & Development Center will serve as a beacon of light for the members of the community and an inspiration to others in Puerto Rico.