6 women, standing. 1 man, standing. smiling.
Several Hostos students learned about the issues surrounding mass incarceration after attending the “Beyond the Bars: Connecting the Struggle” conference at Columbia University on March 4.

Hostos Assistant Education Professor Elys Vasquez-Iscan has been part of the ongoing effort to bring Hostos students to the conference. This year, two students from her Contemporary Health Issues and Field Placement courses attended to learn more about the work being done to end mass incarceration. They were also exposed to the many ways mass incarceration has impacted individuals, families and communities across the U.S., and beyond.

Hostos student and Community Health major, Destiny Allen, found the conference extremely enlightening. “It really focused on issues that many people sugarcoat. I did not know that there are people who were once behind bars but are now successful in their careers, or that deportation laws have gotten so out of hand. The efforts to eliminate mass incarceration, and confronting the racial issues in our school systems, social lives, political and economic status, are crucial to bringing a positive change in the world we live,” Allen said.

Professor Vasquez-Iscan said that in both courses, students discussed the issue of mass incarceration and how the South Bronx is affected. Another Community Health major, Loretta Williams, said the conference educated her about the struggles of young people in inner cities. “It opened my eyes to what goes on in the life and minds of our youth, and how they struggle with so much negativity,” Williams said. “When given the opportunity, and the chance, so much positivity can come out of their bad experiences. Even though they live in a bad neighborhood, it doesn’t define who they are or who they can become. This is why education and knowledge is important to us as a people, to excel and succeed.”

In addition to the conference, Professor Vasquez-Iscan also teaches a Community Health course at Otisville NYS Correctional Facility via a partnership with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice “Prison to College Pipeline” (P2CP) program. Several students have thrived in the program and are currently studying at Hostos.

The Prison to College Pipeline program was featured in 2014 in The New York Times.

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.

Named one of the top 10 finalists for the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, Hostos offers 27 associate degree programs and two certificate programs that facilitate easy transfer to The City University of New York’s (CUNY) 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 CUNY, the nation’s leading urban public university, which serves more than 500,000 students at 24 colleges.