Advocacy Day 2017

Tamira Glover told several state lawmakers she met Wednesday what she’ll tell anyone who asks.

“I think Southern Westchester BOCES saved my life,” the 19-year-old from Mount Vernon said.

A graduate of Sprain Brook Academy, the SWBOCES high school program at the Westchester County jail, Glover traveled to Albany with administrators and faculty to advocate for programs like the one she credits for turning her life around.

“Without SWBOCES, I don’t know where I would be today,” she said at the start of Advocacy Day. “BOCES really saved my life. Even though I was incarcerated and that was a bad situation, I made good out of it and came into a positive outcome and graduated high school.”

The BOCES team met with nearly a dozen state senators and members of the Assembly, educating the lawmakers about the vital services SWBOCES provides. Success stories like those of Glover and Matty Robertson illustrated the point.

Robertson, a 24-year-old Harrison resident who has autism, warmly greeted each legislator with a smile and eye contact, things he says would have been difficult for him when he first came to SWBOCES. Now a teacher’s aid in the Center for Special Services program at Farragut Middle School in Hastings, the SUNY Purchase graduate plans to pursue a teaching degree.

“I want them to know the truth, that without BOCES I would not have gone to college, I would not be looking at graduate school programs,” Robertson said. “I would not know what to do with my life because I had disabilities that inhibited me from being able to interact socially with my peers.”

SWBOCES gave him the skills to adapt, blossom and become better, he says. That’s why he finds rewarding working at BOCES with kids facing the same challenges he faced.

“They’re so smart,” he said. “They’re so gifted, and I want to see them all succeed in life.”

It was clear the pair’s stories impressed those they met. That was especially true when Glover would tell them that when she had the opportunity to be released she asked to stay in jail so she could complete the SWBOCES program.

“It took tremendous courage for you to tell the judge what you did,” one legislator told her.

The Advocacy Day effort was a part of a larger partnership between BOCES and New York State United Teachers.

The team included District Superintendent Harold Coles, Board of Education members Lynn Frazer McBride and Georgia Riedel, Assistant Superintendent James Gratto, Director of Technology Victor Pineiro, Director of Communications Brian Howard, Counselor Kevin McCallister and teachers Lesa Curtis, Gerard Murphy and Keith Mattos.

Glover earned her High School Equivalency through SWBOCES and intends to enroll in the HVAC career training program run by the Center for Adult and Community Services in Valhalla.

She said what made the difference for her is that teachers and counselors like McCallister and Mattos, wouldn’t let her give up, even when she felt discouraged. Now she believes that if she could do it, others can as well. SWBOCES helped her tap into strength and talents that were there all along, she believes.

Robertson, meanwhile, was glad for the chance to inform others about the work SWBOCES does. Spreading that word helps ensure others like him will get the help they need to excel.

“That’s why we exist, to show that even though they are not the same, they are capable of greatness,” he said. “And that is why we keep working for what we do.”