With Puerto Rico close to their hearts, five Hostos students have joined the CUNY Service Corps. Their mission: To volunteer for two weeks on the island as part of the NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative.
The students include Gabriela Castillo, Alex Gutiérrez, Mya Hiraldo, Karla Ignacio, and Teresa Rivera. While some have personal connections to Puerto Rico, all have a strong sense of duty and commitment to public service. Throughout the months of July and August, they will join hundreds of other CUNY and SUNY students, who will work with non-profit organizations already on the ground. The students will also receive college credits and partake in a truly transformative experience, for themselves and others.
Applying to the CUNY service corps Puerto Rico initiative was an easy decision for Teresa Rivera. She has a history of volunteering at donation drives and was especially motivated to give back to the island from which her grandparents hail.
“I enrolled in the Puerto Rico program because I am passionate about community development and mi isla(my island),” she explained. “Volunteering at donation drives was not enough, and I have been trying to get on the ground since Maria hit. I have a lot of experience in organizing community members and service work, so I did not hesitate to apply.”
Gabriela Castillo, who is studying dental hygiene at Hostos, said she applied for the CUNY Service Corp trip to Puerto Rico out of a sense of civic responsibility.
“Reading about the devastation left in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria made me realize how fortunate I have been to never experience the aftermath of a natural disaster. I felt privileged in a sense. It was these feelings that really pushed me to be part of a real, physical effort to rebuild Puerto Rico this summer.”
Liberal Arts major Alex Gutiérrez learned about the program from Hostos professor Ana Lopez. He developed a strong interest in the region while taking her Latin American and Caribbean Studies course.
The Bronx native visited Puerto Rico a year before Hurricane Maria struck the island and said the experience was transformative. Gutiérrez, who is of Puerto Rican descent and Vice President the Puerto Rican Student Organization at Hostos, is humbled by the opportunity to give back to the island that has left such a lasting impact on him.
“The history there is important, and I don’t want it to be washed away and forgotten,” he said.
Gutiérrez will be part of a team assigned to roof repair on the island. He looks forward to being on the ground to lend a helping hand.
Governor Andrew Cuomo extended a personal invitation to the students to attend the National Puerto Rican Day Parade and breakfast as his guest on June 10.
About Hostos Community College
Eugenio María de Hostos Community College is an educational agent for change that has been transforming and improving the quality of life in the South Bronx and neighboring communities for a half-century. Since 1968, Hostos has been a gateway to intellectual growth and socioeconomic mobility, as well as a point of departure for lifelong learning, success in professional careers, and transfer to advanced higher education programs.
Hostos offers 27 associate degree programs and two certificate programs that facilitate easy transfer to The City University of New York’s (CUNY) four-year colleges or baccalaureate studies at other institutions. The College has an award-winning Division of Continuing Education & Workforce Development that offers professional development courses and certificate-bearing workforce training programs. Hostos is part of CUNY, the nation’s leading urban public university, which serves more than 500,000 students at 24 colleges.