The City Tech english professor has served as the annual festival's director for three years.
“It's exciting to run something like the literary festival for the school and neighborhood, it's all about promoting the arts at the school,” she said. “It brings together not only the City Tech community but also the community surrounding the college.”
After Hellman took over the festival, she watched it grow tenfold. More people began attending, other than the required English classes. Hellman says that she perceived the community at the CUNY college and wanted to try to build the event around that.
This year, the festival's headliner will be Junot Diaz, the acclaimed author from the Dominican Republic, who has made New York his home.
Hellman said she wanted to reflect the college's – as well as Brooklyn's - diversity in choosing Diaz.
Another goal of hers is to foster school spirit through the event. Although City Tech is known for its engineering, architecture and other technical concentrations, Hellman said the response to the festival by students has been wonderful.
“The volunteer team really takes a lot of pride in participating,” she said, calling the volunteer aspect an important element of the festival. “I'm impressed by the people who are skilled in engineering or radiology or architecture and yet they approach literature with a willingness and excitement about something that's outside their course of study.”
When deciding where to teach, Hellman's eyes were set on a private liberal arts college. But after serving as an adjunct during her time at the CUNY Graduate Center, where she received her Ph.D in English, she realized she wanted to become involved in public education.
While teaching at CUNY, she said she encountered many “extraordinary, gifted students” who were talented but under-prepared for college coming out of the public school system.
“Their potential was limitless but they were dealing with a deficit through no fault of their own,” she said. She became invested in urban education and her goal was to remain in CUNY.
Currently she is also the remedial writing program director at the college, where the Red Hook resident says her passion for teaching and helping students in need is rewarded even more.
“I definitely believe in equal access to education,” she said. “Working with the City Tech students has been really rewarding.”
The Literary Arts Festival will be held on Thursday, April 26.