(Top Left to Right) Vice Chair for Senior Colleges Affairs Oscar Martínez; Vice Chair for
Community Colleges Affairs, Eber Blanco; Councilmember Inez Barron; Katherine Gutiérrez Ríos; Cintya
Jiménez; (Hostos) Kerri-Ann Mchayle; and Vice Chair for Legislative Affairs Lucas Almonte.
(Bottom Left to Right) Ap Dashing Paulino, Jamell Henderson, Lizayda Rodríguez (Hostos), and Claudia Durán.

Five members of the Hostos Student Leadership Academy—three current students and two graduates—testified at a hearing on President Barack Obama’s “America’s College Promise” before the New York City Council and the Higher Education Committee led by Councilmember Inez Barron on February 23.

President Obama is proposing to make two years of community college free for any student who maintains a 2.5 GPA. The Hostos coalition of supporters joined their CUNY counterparts from the University Student Senate and representatives from CUNY Central. Also participating were Vice Chancellor for Budget and Finance Matthew Sapienza, Interim President of Bronx Community College Eduardo Martí, and University Dean for Enrollment Management, James Murphy.

Hostos students and Student Leadership Academy members who testified were Lizayda Rodríguez, a mother of two, who is studying nursing at Hostos while working full-time; Cintya Jiménez, an undocumented student waiting to enter the Hostos Dental Hygiene Program; and Anita Bhattacharjee, a member of Phi Theta Kappa and the mother of a young woman who could not go to college because she could not afford tuition.

Council member Inez Barron applauded the women and recited the poem by Langston Hughes, “A Dream Deferred,” to highlight the point that they should continue to follow their academic dreams.

The alumni of Hostos and the Student Leadership Academy who spoke were:

Kerry Ann Mchayle-Henry, a former SGA member and nursing student at Hostos went on to receive a Nursing Baccalaureate from Lehman College. Currently, Kerry Ann is studying International Public Policy at the City College of New York. At the hearing she spoke about being an undocumented student and having to work an assortment of jobs to be able to pay for tuition while she was studying at Hostos. Kerri-Ann also spoke about how she was unable to receive scholarships for her hard work and volunteer efforts, because of her undocumented status, in spite of the fact that she was doing more than 80 hours of volunteering a year.

Nayeh Yisrael was in the ASAP program at Hostos and graduated in January 2015. She recently entered Hunter College to study English and Literature. Nayeh, who wants to become a teacher testified that many of her classmates, who were not invited to be a part of the ASAP program at Hostos, struggled to find the money to pay for books and metro cards, even though financial assistance such as TAP and Pell covered their tuition. She called on the Council to take the President’s plan to heart and she was commended for her remarks by the committee chair who is also a graduate of Hunter College and was a teacher before she went into public service.

Other CUNY representatives from the University Student Senate included: Vice Chair for Legislative Affairs Lucas Almonte of City Tech; Vice Chair for Fiscal Affairs Donavan Borington (a graduate of LaGuardia Community College and currently studying at Brooklyn College); Vice Chair for Senior Colleges Affairs Oscar Martínez (a graduate of Westchester Community College and currently a student at Lehman College); Vice Chair for Community Colleges Affairs Eber Blanco (currently studying at Queensborough Community College); Co-chair of Scholarship Committee Jamell Henderson (a graduate of BMCC and a current student at Brooklyn College); LaGuardia Community College student Katherine Gutiérrez Ríos; and University Student Senate Vice Chair for International Student Affairs Emelyn Fernández, who helped coordinate Hostos student and alumni participation.

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 27 associate degree programs and two 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 500,000 students at 24 colleges.