Hostos alumni Fernando “Ponce” Laspina, Camille McKinnon and Hostos staff Ericka DouglasOn January 26, the Hostos Alumni Speakers Bureau partnered with the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center to help educate and encourage young people to continue their education.  

Panelists included Hostos alumni Fernando “Ponce” Laspina, Camille McKinnon and Hostos staff member and health and wellness enthusiast Ericka Douglas. This was the first off-campus event for the Alumni Speakers Bureau.
The Center, located on East 94th Street in New York City, strives to break down economic and social barriers to healthcare and wellness for young people by providing vital services—high quality, comprehensive, confidential and free—for all who apply. It also works to advance and promote adolescent health on a national level by serving as a leading center of clinical care, specialized training and innovative research. 

The questions and topics of discussion for the panel were designed to motivate members of the youth center to continue their education, while understanding there are others who have been through similar experiences. 

“When I was in jail I learned a lot, but the most important thing I learned is that I had to turn my life around after I was released,” said Laspina, who graduated from Hostos in 1980. Laspina is a gifted boxer, who went on to found El Maestro, a nonprofit boxing gym in The Bronx, which serves as a cultural center that has become a second home to many South Bronx youth. 

Many of the youth who attended the discussion were high school students applying for college who had questions about financial aid. 

“My best advice is to apply for as many grants and scholarships as possible. Attending college was very expensive, and if it weren’t for these key financial outlets, I don’t know how I would’ve made it through,” said Douglas, who holds a master’s degree in Communications Management from Norfolk State University. Douglas currently works as a Communications Design Coordinator at Hostos, and in her spare time, volunteers for non-profit organizations, including “Soaring Words,” which uses live entertainment to inspire ill children and families to heal. Douglas also volunteers at “Shape Up NYC,” which offers free fitness and health classes throughout New York City. 

“Staying in a positive mind frame is most important. You have to avoid thinking negatively while focusing on your work… no matter what tries to distract you,” said Camille McKinnon, a Hostos graduate who is now writing a dissertation titled “Cross-Agency Collaboration: A Heuristic Inquiry into the Lived Experiences of African-American Female Ex-Offenders in Prisoner Reentry in Bronx New York.”
If you are interested in participating in the Alumni Speakers Bureau, please contact Alumni Speakers Bureau Coordinator, Adam Meyer by email at AMEYER@HOSTOS.CUNY.EDU or by calling 718.518.4152.

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 nearly 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 28 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.