It takes significant commitment, generosity, and hope to continue to work tenaciously on social justice, equity, generational transformation, and the student-centeredness evidenced in so much of the work taking place at Eugenio María de Hostos Community College.
In the last two years, Hostos’ resilient students have overcome the impact of a pandemic when meeting basic needs such as food and housing insecurity, the digital divide created by virtual classes, and studying under difficult circumstances without access to the warmth, space and quiet of the college. Now, life is coming back to campus, with majority in person offerings, the reopening of our cafeteria and library, and access to in person advisement. Our enrollment headcount for the Spring 2023 semester is up by 7.3%; FTE 15.2%.
At Hostos Community College we have seen growth in enrollment, and improvement in our fall to spring retention. Our ability to produce generational transformation by means of public education has been acknowledged nationally. Among many recognitions, we were named a Top Ten Aspen 2023 finalist (along with our CUNY sister, Kingsborough Community College).
A powerful example of the generational change that Hostos routinely helps bring about lies in the inspiring story of student Johana Bahana. Despite her father’s belief that she should not be educated and instead focus on marriage and having children, Johana felt she had a right to an education and a better life. So, she moved to NYC and obtained her GED at Hostos. However, when she tried to enroll in a degree program she failed the test due to her limited English skills.
With the help of the CUNY Language Immersion Program (CLIP) and CUNYStart, Johana managed to improve her competency and enrolled in one of Hostos’ associate degree programs for credit. Ultimately, she graduated with honors, achieved a place on the Dean’s List with a 3.9 GPA, won the Scholastic Achievement and Academic Excellence Awards from ASAP, all while being a mother to a boy, who was cared for by the Hostos Children’s Center while she studied.
Since graduating, she has obtained a BBA from Lehman College and is now pursuing a MBA at Baruch College with further plans to achieve a Ph.D in Leadership in 2025. She is also a passionate advocate for Hostos and CUNY, as well as all the support programs we offer at the college that helped her begin her journey.
“Based on my experiences, my passion is to help motivate students to continue their education, help them with advice on their pathways, scholarships, and tutoring benefits to enjoy all the resources that CUNY offers.,” she said. “This is a legacy that I do on my own with students who know me. I fully believe that education is the path to success, and we all have the right to have it. I am here helping my community to achieve it in whatever way I can.”
Reflecting on Johana’s story, I am reminded this is a time of growth and forward movement for our deserving students. Community colleges such as Hostos provide a vehicle for social transformation by means of quality, affordable public higher education.
As the college celebrates the 55th Anniversary of its founding this April, we are reminded of the contributions our namesake, the Puerto Rican philosopher and educator, Don Eugenio María de Hostos made to pedagogy and to the improvement of teaching to women and poor communities in the Americas. His words “enseñad al pueblo a pensar” (“let’s teach the people to think”), resonate in everything that we do.
Hostos Community College is the civil rights gain of the Puerto Rican and now other Hispanic, Black and sister communities in the South Bronx, the nation’s poorest congressional district. Today our student population is 60% Hispanic and 35% Black, so 95% of the students we serve are from under-represented communities.
As was done in the 1970s, an additional investment from the state and city is needed to support public higher education in the South Bronx. In doing so, we prepare the next generations attending Hostos to transform their lives by means of education.
Daisy Cocco De Filippis, Ph.D. is the president of Hostos Community College.