Photo Student Andeilys Estrella
Hostos freshman Andeilys Estrella is combining her love for writing and desire to become an educator to find creative ways of connecting with her classmates while distance learning. 
In her first semester at the College, Estrella started a WhatsApp group chat for her Eng. 110 class in an effort to encourage student-led class discussions and community building.
"I love helping people," she said. "I feel like God has put me on this earth to help others as much as possible. I love writing, I love English, and so I thought why not put the two together?"
Estrella's previous academic experiences inspired the idea for the group chat. Personal obstacles caused her to have to finish high school remotely, and, as a result, she felt like she missed out on having a robust academic support system. "I struggled with high school, and once I finished, I was inspired to help others, as a community, because I didn't have that myself," she explained. "I know how important it is to have help when you need it. So I thought if I could do it, why not?"
The group chat has approximately 16 participants. It has become a hub for students to bond, discuss coursework, ask questions, and share personal thoughts and insights concerning their lives and the world around them. Estrella said group members have “gotten on board, and we're all helping each other.”
The Dominican-born, New York-raised 18-year-old has also used the chat to share information about community resources and current social movements, as well as to encourage her classmates to use their voices to uplift others and actively fight against injustice.
Estrella credits English 110 instructor Professor Elizabeth García De Souza and her classmates with helping her to explore and use her own creative voice to discuss current events. In June, she wrote a poem titled "Deeply Rooted” addressing race, ancestry, and racism in the Dominican Republic, and posted it on the course’s Coffee Shop discussion board. "It was about the George Floyd situation. I was addressing Dominicans because there is a lot of deep-rooted racism in the Dominican community, so I wanted to shed light on our roots,” she explained.
Looking ahead, Estrella intends to continue using her passion for writing to inspire others as she pursues a career in education. She hopes to someday return to her old high school, New Heights Academy Charter School, to teach English. "I would actually love to teach there because they encouraged me a lot," shared Estrella. "If it weren't for them, I wouldn't be so motivated, passionate, and in college right now."