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In Sandy's Aftermath, TC Partners with Kingsborough Community College to Help Students Stay on Course

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Regina Peruggi

Regina Peruggi, Ed.D. '90, President of Kingsborough Community College

In the wake of an epic storm, KCC President and TC alumna Regina Peruggi has faced her toughest days on the job. One bright spot: TC is recruiting qualified members of its community to provide tutoring help to KCC students who have lost time in class.

During her eight years as President of Kingsborough Community College, an institution of some 17,000 students hailing from more than 170 countries, TC alumna Regina Peruggi (Ed.D. ’90) has faced plenty of challenges – but nothing quite like the trials brought on this past week and half by Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath.

“We’re located on the tip of Manhattan Beach Peninsula, in the evacuation A Zone,” says Peruggi. “We’re surrounded by water on three sides, so that gives you an idea of how hard we were hit. We had flooded classrooms, debris washing up from everywhere – even decks from people’s houses in Breezy Point. But the real kicker is that we went through our database and discovered that we have over 2,000 students, faculty and staff living A Zone areas – Gerritsen Beach, Coney Island, Staten Island, Brighton Beach, Canarsie, the Rockaways.”  Their situations, Peruggi says, remind her of camps she visited when she chaired the Women’s Refugee Commission.

“We created a disbursement center, with food, clothing, diapers and other supplies,” she says. “One of our student affairs people told me about a young woman – a student – who was looking at the coats, and when she found one that fit her, there was a price tag on it. She started to walk away, and one of our people came over and told her that the coat was free. And this poor woman fell to her knees, sobbing. She said that it was the first warm piece of clothing she’d had in a week.”

Peruggi recalls her own conversation with young Pakistani students who had been living in a shelter in Coney Island.

“I asked them if they needed help with transportation and told them they could take a MetroCard for free,” she says. “They were afraid at first – they didn’t believe it. And then once I convinced them we were for real, they opened up. They said they had been told that day to leave the shelter and go back to their home. And when they did, there was nothing left.”

Staff, too, have suffered. “One maintenance worker, whose home had been destroyed, told us that the only clothes he had were his KCC maintenance uniform, which he’d been wearing when he left,” Peruggi says.

Nor has nature been particularly cooperative. People’s needs have been made all the more dire by the Nor’easter that hit the East Coast this past week, pounding New York City with high winds and snow, and prompting KCC to cancel classes..

But there have been many positives as well. Thanks to what Peruggi calls “an incredible clean-up effort by our amazing staff,” Kingsborough was able to open up for staff within a week after Sandy, and for students shortly afterward. Along with the disbursement center, the college has organized free breakfasts, and its Culinary Arts program has been preparing hot lunches for those in need. There have been grants from CUNY and Robinhood.  And there have been offers of help from good neighbors – including Teachers College.

“When TC’s alumni office reached out to me after learning that we were hit pretty badly, I thought, well, what can another academic institution do for us?” says Peruggi, who has been aided by two other TC alumni in KCC’s administration, David Gomez, Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Loretta DiLorenzo, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. “And it struck me that so many of our students have lost time in class, and many will lose even more. So I asked about tutoring help – because even though we have tutors of our own, the need right now is really great.”

Anyone interested in providing in-person or online tutoring assistance in math and writing to KCC students should contact Jolene Lane, TC Director of Diversity and Community, at 212 678-8410, or at lane@tc.columbia.edu

If you would like to contribute to KCC hurricane relief efforts, which directly and immediately support KCC students and the broader KCC community, please click here to donate to the KCC Sandy Relief Fund. Gifts help provide books, computers, clothing and other essentials. Donations in any amount are greatly needed and appreciated.


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