CUNY Service Corps group picture
Some of the 2019 CUNY Service Corps volunteers, including Christopher Reynoso (top row, second from left) and Alex Gutiérrez (bottom row, third from right)
It has been a transformational and memorable summer for Hostos students Alex Gutiérrez and Christopher Reynoso. They each participated in the CUNY Service Corps—Puerto Rico initiative over the break, restoring homes that were damaged almost two years ago during Hurricane María and forging bonds with fellow CUNY and SUNY student volunteers — including one another.
This recent visit marked the third time Gutiérrez, 28, has volunteered on the island in the last year. He was one of five Hostos students and recent graduates who participated in the recovery effort during the summer of 2018 through CUNY Service Corps’ partnership with the New York Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative, and he returned over winter break to volunteer again and train to become a CUNY Service Corps student-leader. As fate would have it, Reynoso was in one of the cohorts he led over the course of his six-week assignment this summer.

“He was amazing,” said Reynoso of Gutiérrez. “He did everything he could to keep the group together and made sure everyone had a good and memorable experience.”

The duo worked together in the town of Orocovis, digging foundations, framing and building walls, laying down cement, and repairiCUNY Servivce Corps volunteer workingng roofs. It was grueling work, but also very rewarding. Reynoso appreciated the camaraderie among the volunteers and the homeowners, as well as the opportunities to learn about Puerto Rican culture. Moreover, he especially enjoyed seeing the fruits of their labor and the homeowners’ positive reactions to their work.

Both students are now back in New York, but Puerto Rico isn’t far from their minds. Reynoso said his experience this summer has helped strengthen his connection with Puerto Rico and its people—both on the island and throughout the diaspora. So much so, the 22-year-old Dominican American participated in a demonstration that took place in New York City this July against the then-Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Roselló. “It wasn’t even a second thought,” he said, adding, “There are still things you can do to help and act as an ally to the people who are there in Puerto Rico.”

Gutiérrez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, was still on the island at the time of the protests, and participated in demonstrations there. “It was electrifying,” he recalled. “The island literally felt like it had a pulse, and it was strong. You could feel it. I would hold up that flag so high, and it was because of the energy and the strength coming from everyone on the island around me.”
Chancellor with Hostos graduate
(Left to right) CUNY Chancellor Felix V. Matos Rodriguez visited with Alex Gutiérrez and other CUNY Service Corps volunteers this summer.

Looking ahead, Gutiérrez said he would like to continue contributing to the rebuilding effort on the island, noting the experiences he’s had there over the last year were overwhelming and difficult at times, but they also opened his eyes to the importance and impact of doing service-driven work. “If I’m going to be overwhelmed, I might as well be overwhelmed with things that are meaningful and important to me,” he reasoned. “Giving back and devoting myself to service, things like that are important to me, and if I’m overwhelmed with that, I’m happy.”

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 for over half a century. Since 1968, Hostos has been 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.

Hostos offers 27 associate degree programs and two certificate programs that facilitate secure 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 25 colleges.