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AN EDUCATION with value ( + )



85.6 Hostos


students graduate debt-free

STUDENTS, FACULTY AND STAFF • Dr. Yoel Rodríguez, an Associate Professor in the Physical Sciences Unit, earned a prestigious Fulbright Award for 2016-17. • Nursing student Ivy Mensah was named 2016 Peter Jennings Scholarship Award winner. • Game design major Jose Deschamps and recent nursing graduate Rabiat Ajao earned the 2016 Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) All-New York Academic Award.

SCHOLARSHIPS One of the ways the Hostos Community College Foundation supports students is by securing funding for scholarships. Scholarships enable students to stay in school, focus on their studies and succeed.

$ 962,231 awarded in private scholarships


private scholarships awarded




elcome to the Summer 2016 edition of the Caiman Chronicle, the quarterly magazine of Eugenio María de Hostos Community College. With our 45th Commencement still fresh on everyone’s minds, we dedicated this issue to some special graduates and other students who best represent what Hostos is all about — overcoming obstacles, seizing opportunities, and building strong communities … one student at time. Our cover story celebrates Devon Simmons, the first graduate from Hostos’ partnership with John Jay College’s Prison-to-College Pipeline Program. Launched in 2011, the program takes a unique approach to educating inmates, while also preparing them for reentry into society. We also shared the story of Carlos Advincola, Jr., a senior on the path to completion, who has persevered through some incredibly challenging setbacks. Also a published author, Carlos embodies the never-quit spirit that so many of our students share. As Hostos President Dr. David Gómez said at commencement: “I challenge anyone in this nation to argue that you are not the best that this nation has to offer. Never let anyone tell you that you cannot succeed. Always proudly proclaim that you are Hostos. You are the best.” Please enjoy and share this publication and let it motivate you to remain connected with Hostos. Feel free to send your stories, campus events and announcements via email to, and join the Caiman Chronicle conversation on social media by using the hashtag #CaimanChronicle.

AIMANChronicle Summer 2016 Vol. 1, No. 2

Publisher Institutional Advancement Division Office of Communications Manager Camille Currie Contributing Writers Camille Currie Ericka Douglas Richard Pietras Art, Editorial Design & Production José R. García

Photography Arpi Pap Photography © Ericka Douglas Eudardo Hoperman Richard Pietras Romain Suinat Ad Design & Production Ericka Douglas José R. García





Dr. Linda Hirsch, Hostos English Professor and EdCast Host; Dr. Elys Vasquez-Iscan, Hostos Assistant Professor, Presidential Fellow & ELEVATE Fellow; Elizabeth Tappeiner, Hostos Associate Professor

LIGHTS, CAMERA… EDUCATION! Hostos and Lehman Colleges Team Up for Educational Program


here do you go for the most timely and reliable information regarding educational issues? Straight to the educators, of course. That has been the mantra for The City University of New York’s awardwinning television program, EdCast, the only program of its kind created, written and produced by educators. Launched in 2007 as a partnership between Hostos Community College and Lehman College, EdCast tackles the most pressing educational issues of the day by bringing together important civic leaders, educators, and authors. Topics have included mayoral control of New York City schools, the impact of charter schools, the importance of arts education, the power of restorative justice, poverty’s effect on learning, and tools for literacy development. Dr. Linda Hirsch, a literacy specialist and English Professor at Hostos Community College for more than 30 years, has served as host and producer for EdCast since its inception. Dr. Hirsch noted that the inspiration for the program came way back in the 1990s, when she



Summer 2016

and her friends were school searching for their children. “We were struggling with what to look for,” Dr. Hirsch said. “We wondered about what really constitutes a good reading program, how a mathematics program should be taught, and what is the best class size. It occurred to me that if my well-informed friends were at a loss, and I as an educator was often overwhelmed myself, what might other parents be going through?” After that experience, Hirsch thought about creating a television program where parents and caregivers could get advice from experts and call in with questions. Aside from a stint as a content consultant on Children’s Television Workshop’s Ghostwriter program, Dr. Hirsch was a college professor with limited media experience. She had no idea how to get started. After a friend recommended watching BronxNet Television’s BronxTalk, an interviewbased show with live viewer call-ins, Dr. Hirsch impressed them with her ideas and was soon given a regular segment. After more opportunities and assistance

from CUNY, she became the sole host in January 2016. “We wanted to clarify the often contentious and confusing issues surrounding conversations in education,” Hirsch said. “I am an academic, not a TV person, so it was challenging and scary at the same time. But I felt our professional backgrounds provided us with an incredible opportunity to create a show that could speak to both educators and non-educators.”

Continued on page 11

EdCast can be seen bi-monthly on CUNY-TV Channel 75 Time Warner Cable and Optimum Cable, Channel 77 RCN, Channel 30 FiOS, and WNYE Channel 25.3 and online at The website also offers program highlights, podcasts and other information.




Caiman Chronicle

Carlos’ Tips

Stop - “They’re not just ■ Single here for food vouchers and metro cards. They help with housing and legal services.”

Services – “If you’re ■ Career looking for a job, it is a perfect place to find work.”

Be Afraid – “Talk to ■ Don’t faculty, or staff. There is

someone on campus who will listen to you and find ways to help.”

The moment I stepped foot onto the Hostos campus, I was showered with so many opportunities and met so many inspirational people, including students who helped me become more passionate about writing.



Summer 2016

Class of 2017

FAITH ON THE BRINK OF TRIUMPH How Carlos Advincola, Jr. and his Family Survived Homelessness for his Education


or most students, walking across the stage to receive a degree is both a symbol of completion and the start of a new journey. It also represents the end of standing in endless financial aid and registration lines, all-night studying sessions, and the rest of the scholastic challenges today’s students face. But, for Hostos senior Carlos Advincola, Jr., it a symbol that while a lot may be going against you, faith in yourself will see you through. Carlos discovered at an early age that he expressed himself best on paper. A shy child, he wrote his first play in the third grade. Well-received by his peers, it gave him the drive and the confidence to work harder on his craft. “I like to expand my mind,” Advincola said. “It inspires me to write more.” Encouraged by his high school teachers to pursue a career in writing, Advincola enrolled at Hostos to pursue his Associate Degree in Liberal Arts & Humanities. He admits that in the beginning, he wasn’t sure if the college would be a good fit. But, he quickly realized, and through the advice of his parents, that the institution held many hidden gems. “The moment I stepped foot onto the Hostos campus, I was showered with so many opportunities and met so many inspirational people, including students who helped me become more passionate about writing,” he said. He has already embarked on a writing career. He penned two book in high school, and his latest work,

“The Champions of Heaven: The Warriors’ Journal Book One,” is set to hit bookstores this summer and be available online through But, like many stories of triumph, there were setbacks. Within the past two years, Carlos faced some situations others might not be strong enough to overcome. One huge hurdle that appeared in Spring 2015 occurred after his mother and father selflessly fought for their fellow neighbors who were living without water and heat. The well-meaning family ultimately found themselves homeless. “It hit me in the gut, I was close to graduating, to shaking President Gómez’s hand,” Advincola said. “My parents were supposed to be there, but now we’re about to be homeless.” Still, his parents remained strong, consistently telling him and his three brothers (Elias, 23; Esteban, 24; and Josué, 25) to keep the faith and pray. Ultimately, management proceeded with eviction claims, which landed the Advincola family in a two-year court battle. Continuing to fight against his family’s pending eviction, Advincola sought help from Hostos’ Single Stop Program, which in turn, provided his family a lawyer, food and other necessities. Unfortunately, the family was ultimately evicted and forced to move. They had no choice but to give everything away and leave with only the clothes on their backs. The family sought refuge in shelters throughout New York City. Carlos

recalls the restless nights worrying about him and his family’s safety. “I would see fights break out in the shelters. Sometimes we had to even sleep on two separate floors and couldn’t visit each other. Through all of that, we stayed positive.” Carlos first told his story at the CUNY Coordinate Undergraduate Education (CUE) Conference. He was fully supported by Jason Libfeld, Hostos Student Leadership Academy Coordinator, who expressed the importance of sharing his story. The young writer, who had been through so much, spoke about how Single Stop and Career Services were the main places he went for support. Most importantly, he offered hope to other students by showing how no matter what the odds, hard work and faith can take you anywhere you want to go. Advincola has spent his Hostos academic career encouraging his fellow Caimans to not be afraid to ask for help. Urging them to not only come for classes, but to get to know more about the campus. “Not only should you come to the campus for classes, but look into other services that are offered to students. They can help you,” says Carlos. Through it all, he remains in high hopes of his future and upcoming graduation next year. “Graduation is going to be big for me. We’ve gone through so much. I’m not going to be walking on stage by myself. I’m going to have my family there, giving thanks to God for getting us through together.”


Caiman Chronicle





As you move on to the next stage of your careers, remember how you got here. Never let anyone tell you that you cannot succeed. Always proudly proclaim that you are Hostos. You are the best.

— Dr. David Gómez

President Hostos Community College


n a ceremony fit for a special anniversary, Hostos conferred degrees to its largest number of graduates in the College’s history on Thursday, June 2, at New York City Center. Some 1,196 students were celebrated at the College’s 45th Commencement, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. served as the keynote speaker. Diaz also was recognized with the President’s Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the College.



Summer 2016

Hostos President Dr. David Gómez congratulated the class on their dedication, but also urged them to push forward. He also singled out certain students who pushed through particularly strong obstacles, including Devon Simmons, who graduated thanks to the Prison-to-College Pipeline Program, an initiative of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in collaboration with Hostos. Simmons graduated with honors and is pursuing his baccalaureate degree at John Jay this fall.

Hostos Celebrates Alumni In special celebration of the 45th anniversary of commencement, the College also honored 12 distinguished alumni, who not only excelled in their field of choice but have remained supportive of Hostos, including Víctor Vázquez, class of 1978, now Chair of the Social Sciences Department at Miami Dade College; and 2006 alumna, Yesenia Lendor-Montero, who improved her English skills at Hostos and is now working as a structural engineer for New York City’s Environmental Protection Agency.

qqqElectrical Engineering scholar Wendy Fernández, a native of the Dominican Republic, served as 2016 Valedictorian. This summer she will attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) 2016 Summer Program in Biology and Neuroscience to complete her at City College in also planning to related to electricity software design.

before returning bachelor’s degree the fall. She is pursue a Ph.D. and a career in

Fernández, who moved to New York from the Dominican Republic and spoke little English when she arrived in the U.S., also talked of her own struggles. She moved with her family three times as a college student and had to share a bedroom with her siblings. She credited the support she received from Hostos, particularly Engineering Professor Yoel Rodríguez, for changing the trajectory of her life.

I tell my story, because it is our story. Hostos gave us the wings to follow our dreams.

— Wendy Fernández

Electrical Engineering

Hostos Celebrates The Best of The Best at Honors Convocation n Held on May 26, the campus’ highest scholastic achievers with a GPA of 3.7 or higher were treated to a banquet in a transformed Hostos gymnasium that looked like a gala hall. Guests heard from campus leaders, including Hostos President David Gómez, Provost Christine Mangino, and the Chair of the College Senate Héctor López. “You are our pride,” President Gómez told the honors students, adding that Hostos is a place where such excellence shines because of “wonderful students who are guided by wonderful faculty.” Valedictorian Wendy Fernández, Salutatorian Santtee Agrispin, SGA President Saint Mbakop A Boui, and fellow honors student Rokia Diabi all shared the stage to talk about how Hostos helped them achieve their goals and the importance of giving back once their Hostos journey ends.

Hostos Celebrates Achievements of 2016 Allied Health Students Over the last few weeks, three Hostos academic programs celebrated their 2016 graduates with special pinning ceremonies. Led by Dr. Charles I. Drago, Professor and Chairperson of Allied Health Sciences Department, a total of 94 students received certifications and academic pins.

Dental Pinning Ruben Diaz Jr. told the graduates his own personal story of perseverance as a young father who graduated from two CUNY colleges and eventually became Bronx Borough President. “Stick together,” Diaz Jr. told the graduates. “Realize the lessons you learned from one another. … You have the tools. You can conquer the world.”

On May 9, the Hostos Dental Hygiene Program celebrated the success of 35 graduates in the 2016 Pinning Ceremony.

Nursing Pinning

On May 24, 35 nursing students - 23 Registered Nursing and 12 Licensed Practical Nursing - received their pins at the Class of 2016 Nursing Pinning Ceremony.

Radiologic Pinning

The Radiologic Technology Program celebrated 24 students with a special pinning ceremony on May 26.


Caiman Chronicle




hen you observe Hostos student Devon Simmons in class, he is hyperengaged. Paying attention is a privilege, not an option. He hangs on tightly to each word, no matter if it comes from a professor or a classmate. He thrives in conversations, and he is just as eager to share what he knows as he is to learn from others. It is almost as if Simmons is trying to make up for lost time. And, in some ways, he is doing just that. Before graduating from Hostos Community College in June with an Associate in Arts Degree in Criminal Justice—with honors—Simmons served 15-and-a-half years in prison for assault. But being incarcerated for close to half of his life never stopped Simmons from trying to expand his intellect. “Initially, I never really thought I would do my entire sentence, so I started researching my case and learning the law in prison,” said the Harlem native and current Bronx resident. “I mean, who knew my case better than me?” While his quest for information might not have earned him an early release, it did lead to Simmons to the Prisonto-College Pipeline Program (P2CP) at Otisville Correctional Facility. Thanks to that program and his determination, doors have been opening for him ever since.

OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL An initiative of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, one of the senior



Summer 2016

colleges of the City University of New York (CUNY), P2CP’s mission is to open access to college for the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated. The program also serves as an important example of the vital role colleges and universities can play in prisoner reentry and, by extension, building stronger communities. P2CP began delivering classes at Otisville, a medium security men’s institution approximately two hours from New York City, in Fall 2012. Selected participants earn college credits, as long as they have a high school diploma or GED and are eligible for release within five years. Prospective students also must pass the CUNY reading and writing assessment test. Simmons was the first student to graduate as part of P2CP. There are currently 36 student-inmates in the program, and 46 students have passed through P2CP since August 2011. Hostos Community College President Dr. David Gómez knows Simmons and his story well. For Gómez, Simmons represents what Hostos’ mission has been since the College was born in 1968. “Devon’s story is really the story of Hostos, one that shows the importance of offering educational opportunities for all. His success will not only serve him well, but it will help improve the lives of everyone he touches moving forward. That ‘chain-reaction’ of success, which is an important by-product of this program, is transformative on so many levels.” Bianca van Heydoorn, the Director of Educational Initiatives at John Jay,

where P2CP resides, is extremely proud of Simmons, his progress, and what he represents to the program. “Without the Prison-to-College Pipeline, there would be no access to college like there is here,” van Heydoorn said. “We are making a deliberate statement that both of these institutions, prisons and colleges, are places where people need to be encouraged to learn.”

TECHNICALLY SPEAKING, A BIT OF A ROUGH START While Simmons had the drive and the intellect — he earned his GED in 2000 from a state program and finished many of his prerequisite college credits at Otisville by 2014 — his introduction to higher education at Hostos was a an eyeopener. The fact is, Simmons had a bit of a secret: Because access to the Internet and other technology tools that most students take for granted were forbidden behind the walls, he had been learning the “old fashion way.” In fact, when he crafted his first paper at Hostos for his Public Administration class, he failed to save it to a flash drive correctly and lost his work. He rewrote it by hand at the last minute and received a so-so grade on the paper’s first draft. That experience stoked his internal fire even higher. So much so, Simmons earned an A on the final paper. When asked about Facebook and other social media many of his peers

cannot live without, Simmons added through his trademark grin: “I am

stilltrying to get my head around that.”



— Devon Simmons Class of 2016

FA C T S A B O U T P 2 C P • 46 Otisville students have re-entered society. • 8 are successfully enrolled in CUNY institutions: three at John Jay, four at Hostos Community College, and one at LaGuardia Community College.

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cannot live without, Simmons added through his trademark grin: “I am still trying to get my head around that.” Van Heydoorn said while students at Otisville are denied access to the Internet and social media, they work on computers, but mainly for word processing, along with typewriters. Classes typically run once a week for three hours, and the syllabi are modeled after what students will find at colleges like Hostos. “I joke that typewriter ribbon is part of our technology costs. But while those challenges exist, we prepare our faculty well to teach in a prison setting and to prepare students for the college setting. Professors print a lot of material out that students request here, and we are happy to do that heavy lifting; we are simply matching their effort,” van Heydoorn said. Elys Vasquez-Iscan is an Assistant Professor and Presidential Fellow in Hostos’ Health Education Unit and Gerontology Unit, who also teaches at Otisville as part of P2CP. She lauded Simmons’ commitment to his classwork, as well as his eagerness to share his story and become an educator about the program and similar services. Simmons helped host a screening of the documentary, Prison Kids, as well as a post-screening panel discussion to educate Hostos students about P2CP.



Summer 2016

As for teaching at Otisville, VasquezIscan said while the students are fully engaged and love learning, constant support is crucial to ensure their transition is successful. “A challenge that most inmates experience—and is analogous to what most institutionalized, including military personnel, experience—is anxiety and fear at the thought of leaving prison,” Vasquez-Iscan said. “Therefore, by providing studentinmates continuous support during incarceration, through their release and ongoing support during their reintegration to society, they are better equipped to navigate in society and their risk of recidivating is less.”

MOVING UP AND ON During one of his final classes at Hostos in late May, Simmons is intently listening to Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Law Professor, Héctor Soto, lecture on “The Role of the Police in the Community.” Professor Soto is another longtime Hostos faculty member, who also runs Hostos Public Policy & Law Unit. A civil rights lawyer, he is a nationally recognized expert on police misconduct and reform. While Soto serves as the professor,

Simmons could be considered his assistant, as he brings up legal cases, and other related information, into the discussion. He also jokes with other students, just as engaged as ever. Invoking the relatively new concept of being “justice involved,” which describes everything from the incarcerated, to people who live in urban areas who might be targeted by the police because of their race, Soto calls Simmons an “untapped and valuable resource” in places like the South Bronx. “In a class like this one, a student like Devon brings a perspective and a sensitivity that enhances every discussion and interaction,” said Soto. “On a larger scale, someone as bright as him, who has committed to turning his life around, is an added value to our entire community.” The support he has received at Hostos is something Simmons has not taken for granted. While he admits he kept to himself a little more than he would have liked during his first semester, he recommitted himself to connect with his peers moving forward. Now one of the most popular students to have graduated from Hostos, he leaves behind a legacy of giving back. Simmons worked hard to help others through programs like College Initiative and Hostos Strive for Success, which is designed to help first-year students. Having already taken a course at Columbia University on the recommendation of a mentor at P2CP, Simmons is set to pursue his bachelor’s degree at John Jay. He hopes to someday launch a nonprofit that serves the current and formally incarcerated find services, similar to P2CP. “I really enjoyed being a sort of mentor at Hostos,” Simmons said. “It does not take a lot for young people to go down a bad road in this type of environment. In return, Hostos helped me learn that I could be social. I love not only what the College has done for me, but the sense of hope it brings to the community. I mean, look around, I am not the only Hostos success story. Everyone’s journey says something.” You just have to open that door.

LIGHTS, CAMERA… EDUCATION! Continued from page 2 EdCast is produced at Lehman College’s Multi-Media Center, a stateof-the-art facility, which opened in April 2010, and includes Lehman Studios as a major facility. It is the only facility of its kind within the CUNY system and rivals the capabilities of major networks. Also co-located at Lehman is BronxNet, the public access corporation, with connections to FIOS and Cablevision, with which Lehman has a synergistic relationship. Jerry Barnard, EdCast’s Executive Producer and Director of the Lehman College Multi-Media Center, said EdCast was already being produced in an older studio but now had the ability to be recorded in full HD with an experienced media production team. “Lehman College is justly proud of the work EdCast has done over its nine seasons, tackling many important issues and giving a platform for many renowned figures in education. EdCast was there first,” stated Barnard, Critics are also noticing the show. EdCast won two TELLY Awards in 2012 and 2013 for excellence in cable broadcasting.


New York State Professor of the Year Cynthia Jones and her students

BE THE DIFFERENCE FOR OUR STUDENTS AND OUR COMMUNITY For additional information on ways to support Hostos, contact the Division of Institutional Advancement at: or by calling 718-518-4341


AIMANChronicle Attention Hostos Students, Faculty and Staff!!! It’s time to sharpen your writing skills and focus your lenses! Your passion for writing or keen eye for photography is needed. Build your portfolio by volunteering for the recently launched Caiman Chronicle, a quarterly magazine all about the achievements and journey of Hostos students, faculty, staff and supporters. For more information contact: Camille Currie, Director of Communications or 718-518-4334


Caiman Chronicle


S tu d e n t


Graduation Means to me




Summer 2016

Graduation means I am able to do what Wendy decides to do. It means power!

— Wendy Fernández Electrical Engineering

What makes the Hostos campus stand out is the culture. Everyone is accepted regardless of his or her background or culture.

— Joshua Bawa Public Administration

Graduation is a big accomplishment for me. After graduation, I am starting a job as an X-ray tech. Then I will go back to school to pursue radiologic more in-depth.

“ “

— Boualen Laouari Radiologic Technology

appy g for me, I’m h in n in eg b e th just complished Graduation is feel like I’ve ac I e. re eg d y m es me a to receive t done, this giv o n I’m h g u o a teacher. something. Th on to become ti ca u ed y m in start pson — Renee Thom d Education Early Childhoo

I’m going to Baruch College next to major in Science and Nutrition. Before Hostos, I was trying to find myself. Graduation is a stepping-stone for me, the ability to close one chapter and open another.

— Napoleon Boyer Liberal Arts & Science

Graduation for me is symbolic to the path that I chose. It is just the beginning of something great. No matter the obstacles people face, if you persevere and keep pressing forward, you can succeed. It is my trophy for winning the race.

— Stephanie Crespo Aging and Health Studies

Graduation for me means having a great time with family and friends celebrating what I have accomplished. After graduation, I plan to go to a 4-year college and study Pre-Law.

— Diana Herra Criminal Justice

For me it’s a first step. It shows that I have potential enough to build on. After graduation, I hope to become a Physicist.

— Santtee Agrispin Mathematics

e Hostos What makes th out is that campus stand full of life and it’s constantly make you students who Receiving feel welcome. big step in my degree is a allowed me my life. It has my father’s to be the first of uate. children to grad

— Saul Colon Sciences Liberal Arts &

Graduation is the breath of fresh air, the light at the end of the dark tunnel. The belief that you can start anew.

— Barak A. Hatch Nursing President of the Nursing Club


Caiman Chronicle

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11 ANNUAL th



SAVE THE DATE Friday, September 16, 2016 Pelham Bay & Split Rock Golf Courses, Bronx, New York

Profile for Hostos Community College

Caiman Chronicle Magazine, V1, N2  

Summer 2016 Volume 1, No. 2

Caiman Chronicle Magazine, V1, N2  

Summer 2016 Volume 1, No. 2