Sayonara Diaz at Hostos A-Atrium

Hostos alumna Sayonara Díaz’s path to an associate degree took more twists and turns than she expected, but her determination to succeed ultimately brought her to the place she’d always dreamed of reaching.

Díaz – who hails from San Francisco, Dominican Republic – enrolled in Hostos’ nursing program in 2008. Difficult circumstances (including personal injuries, unreliable childcare, job loss and financial restraints) caused the single mother of one to take multiple breaks from school. She returned to Hostos in 2011 and again in 2013, and along the way developed an interest in and eventually changed her major to community health, thanks to Professor Elys Vasquez-Iscan’s guidance and mentorship. “What I liked the most about community health is you have the opportunity to interact with people one-on-one,” explained Díaz. 

Her new path opened the door to internship opportunities ranging from working with patient navigators in Lincoln Hospital’s oncology department to working with young people in the community or men and women struggling with substance abuse. Each experience was crucial in Díaz’s evolving personal and professional passion for helping underserved communities.  

Díaz’s commitment to serving her community extended into her work on campus and throughout CUNY. During her time at Hostos, Díaz joined the College’s Student Government Association and served on CUNY-wide student councils where she strengthened her public speaking skills, flexed her advocacy muscles, and built networks with her peers, administrators and community leaders. A recipient of the Carlos Beltrán scholarship, she knew first-hand the incredible difference such financial awards could make for students, and so she shared scholarship information with her peers whenever she could.

Díaz graduated from Hostos in 2017 – just two weeks after her daughter, Katherine, graduated from Brandeis University. It was an emotional time for Díaz, especially when her daughter thanked her and acknowledged the sacrifices it took for the mother-daughter duo to obtain their respective degrees. Looking back, Díaz is rightly proud of her journey. The challenges she faced along the way made her achievements all the sweeter.

Díaz has since earned her bachelor’s in forensic psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where she is currently pursuing a master’s in criminal justice and an advanced certificate in criminal investigation. Looking ahead, Díaz plans on working with incarcerated youth, providing them with tools and resources to help prevent recidivism and encourage academic and professional development. 

Although she graduated a few years ago, Díaz can still be found on campus from time to time. She often returns to Hostos to share her story and inspire others to stay the course. “Go for what you want,” she advises current and future students. “Have a plan and go for it. Just keep going.”