Twenty-year-old Hostos Community College student Madlen Castro knows that by taking classes during the summer, she may have missed out on some fun. However, she also knows that you can’t get where you want to go in life without working hard and making a few sacrifices along the way. So weighing her options, she decided to enroll in a pilot program designed specifically for goal-oriented students like her.

On July 22, Castro was rewarded for her industriousness when she was recognized along with 28 other participants in Hostos’ “Summer Success 101: Student Financial Literacy and Retention Program.” This program was made possible through a $100,000 grant award to Hostos from Citi Community Development and through partnerships with The NYC Office of Finance Empowerment (OFE) and Phipps Community Development Corporation, a NYC Financial Empowerment Center.

Through this initiative, a student cohort saved the equivalent of the cost of one summer course from unused funds within their Pell financial aid award. Students who successfully saved the cost were awarded a second summer course for free. Students benefitted from accelerated program, leading to reduced degree completion time, and workshops that provided financial literacy skills and practical tools. Free NYC Metrocards were also distributed to participating students for the summer session.

Participating students received expert advice on saving and budgeting From Mark Angeli, Vice President of Citibank N.A. Citi at Work Program, and Lily López, a NY Community Development Officer with Citi Community Development. Additionally, Pedro Salazar, Financial Counselor at Phipps Community Development Corporation, served as a student mentor and also worked in collaboration with the Hostos Student Success Coaches.

Hostos President Félix V. Matos Rodríguez thanked Citi, Phipps and all those who participated in this innovative pilot program that heightened students’ financial awareness, while helping to increase their retention and educational attainment rates.

A number of the Student Success Coaches, led by the unit’s Director, Angela Ríos, played key roles in the Student Financial Literacy and Retention Program. The Coaches also received financial literacy training through CUNY’s "Consumer and Personal Finance” certificate program, thanks to a partnership between The NYC Office of Finance Empowerment (OFE) and Phipps CDC, a NYC Financial Empowerment Center.

Castro is grateful to Ríos for having referred her to Summer Success 101, which enabled her to take Calculus I at Hostos for free after she paid for her English 203 Creative Writing class. She is studying Liberal Arts and is scheduled to graduate in the Spring 2014 semester. After earning her associate degree, she intends to transfer to a four-year college and prepare for a career in ultrasound technology or biology.

 “The summer program definitely helped me speed up my studies, and I could not graduate as quickly without it,” Castro said. “Also, the financial guidance was great. The sessions helped me budget my money, track my spending, and even helped me raise my credit score.”

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.