Class of 2005
John Meche graduated from Hostos Community College in 2005 while dual enrolled at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In addition to his associate degree in public administration and bachelor’s in judicial studies, he holds a master’s from Baruch College and is nearing completion of his doctorate from Morgan State University. His illustrious academic journey has focused around higher education and community college leadership, with a special emphasis on promoting the success of marginalized groups within the higher education demographic. Mr. Meche was an adjunct lecturer and assistant to the dean of student engagement and success at Bronx Community College, and is now an adjunct lecturer and the project director of the Black Male Initiative at the College of Staten Island. This year, he was honored by the Hostos Office of Alumni Relations and the Division of Institutional Advancement at the virtual third annual Alma Matters Awards.
The following audio clip is an excerpt of an extended interview with Mr. Meche conducted by Alumni Relations Manager Félix Sánchez. Mr. Meche was asked to discuss the importance of Black History Month on his work and its impact on our educational system.
The following interview excerpts have been edited for length and clarity.
Q & A
What experiences at Hostos help prepared you to be successful?
I met a mentor, Professor Nestor Montilla, who pretty much took me under his wing. I was sitting in the political science class, and it just so happened that me and the professor started talking. We learned that we are from the same area and felt connected through our country. He saw something special in me. We talked about the politics of the Dominican Republic, and he seemed to really understand me. That chance meeting encouraged me to do more because someone saw my worth.
Initially, I had dropped out of college at 19 with a D average. I found work that paid enough at the time and thought, “I have a job I'm making more money than a lot of my friends, so college is not for me.” Then, as I mentioned to others around me that I was not planning on attending college, people told me I had too much going for me to give up. Hostos Community College and Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) were the two institutions that really had the degree plan that I wanted. I chose Hostos because of its connection to Dominican and Latino communities. I feel indebted to Hostos because it gave me a second chance. If I had not had that encounter with Nestor, I do not think I would be in the position I am today.
What inspires you to keep moving forward?
I am motivated by seeing people like me succeed. I am inspired by seeing my students take ownership of their struggles. I am inspired by great leaders like Obama, but also by my parents. They worked so hard so that I could be where I am today. I wish my parents could be here to see me graduate with my doctorate.
The goal moving forward is to complete this doctorate and finish my research. It is just a title at this point because I am already doing the work I want to do. My research entails the lived experiences of males from the African Diaspora in higher education environments. I am focusing on the lived experiences in the following racial/ethnic groups: African Americans, Dominicans, Haitians, Puerto Ricans and Jamaicans. I am looking to see how we are learning based on our lived experiences. Although we learn at the same pace as our peers, through the research findings, we will explore whether there is an institutional bias towards the students while at college. My goal is to complete that and continue doing research on the lived experiences of these groups, in particular Creoles, Dominicans, and African Americans, since that is my background.
As a person of color, it is important that I go to places that are less comfortable for me, so that I get to tell the story of those places from my perspective. I continually tell myself that I am not going to be a person who comes to work angry and does not give my students 110%. I need to do the work to address the situations that cause discontent.
What advice would you give a current student to help them be successful, especially considering all the uncertainties they face this year?
I would tell them not to be afraid of what is before us. Change is not always bad. More often, we have a hard time adjusting or we feel as though there is a barrier, but really, we just want to stick with what we know. I would tell them to seek out new adventures; seek out new ways to learn, because if we stay with the same concepts of education what are we truly learning?
Also, you must learn how to communicate what you want and what you need. In the classroom and beyond, communication can solve a lot of our problems.