Top Left to right – Wally Edgecombe, Jaquanna Hardy.Middle row Left to right – Michael A. Cruz, Samantha Maldonado and Samuel Berkoh. Bottom row – Jenny Moncion Pena, Jolisel Vargas Lopez, Gloria Ventura, Arianne Misreelat, Ana Deriz Ventura and Nydia Edgecombe.

More than a year after Hurricane Sandy, over 200 families have not been able to return to their homes on the Rockaway Peninsula. To lend a helping hand, personnel of the Alumni Relations Office at Eugenio María de Hostos Community College of CUNY, the College’s Student Ambassadors, and members of the Leadership Academy joined forces with Friends of Rockaway on February 22 to help the O’Connor family rebuild their home, which had been devastated by the hurricane in October of 2012.  

With the slogan of “Rebuilding Homes, Rebuilding Lives,” Friends of Rockaway is non-profit organizations of volunteers who help families restore their houses that were severely damaged or destroyed by the storm. Nydia Edgecombe, the Director of Alumni Relations at Hostos, organized the group of volunteers with the support from Jason Libfeld, Coordinator of the Hostos Ambassadors and the Leadership Academy.  

2 Photos. first photo, 2 women wearing mouth mask. second photo, group working on floor.

Members of the Leadership Academy who participated in the restoration of the O’Connor’s home included Samantha Maldonado, Jolisel Vargas, Arianne Miseeal, Ana Deniz Ventura, Jenny Moncion and Gloria Angely Ventura. The volunteers helped by hanging insulation in the kitchen and living room, cutting drywalls, and mudding.  Michael Cruz and Jaquonna Hardy, two Hostos alumni who are currently attending the City College of New York, worked hand in hand with the current Hostos students in rebuilding the home.

Nydia Edgecombe commended the students and Libfeld for their efforts. “Jason is a true leader, and it shows in everything he plans and does with the Student Ambassadors and members of the Leadership Academy. This experience of working with the Student Ambassadors to help rebuild a house in the Rockaways truly touched my heart and the hearts of the O'Connor family members who have been waiting for over a year to move back into their home. Having our alumni Michael and Jaquonna with us was the icing on the cake!”   

Cruz said the values he learned at Hostos motivated him to volunteer.

“I always come back to Hostos to support this kind of project because it was at Hostos that I learned about community work and the importance of giving back to our communities.”

2 Photos. first photo, 1 woman. second photo, 1 woman.

Megan Corley, the Volunteer Coordinator for Friends of Rockaway, stated that the organization has been able to help 31 families return to their homes because of the efforts of people like the team from Hostos.  Friends of Rockaway continue to need volunteers to help rebuild houses and also help with fundraising and/or donations to help pay for construction.  

To get involved, contact Megan Corley at

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 since 1968. It serves as 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. The College’s unique "Student Success Coaching Unit" provides students with individualized guidance and exemplifies its emphasis on student support services.

Hostos offers 29 associate degree programs and five certificate programs that facilitate easy transfer to CUNY’s 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 The City University of New York (CUNY), the nation’s leading urban public university, which serves more than 480,000 students at 24 colleges.