One hundred sixty-four students from three different adult literacy programs offered by the SWBOCES Center for Adult and Community Services were honored June 20 at a special student recognition ceremony held at Manhattanville College’s O’Byrne Chapel.
Students in the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), High School Equivalency/HSE Exam Prep and Citizenship programs received certificates for successfully completing the requirements for each of them.
In her opening remarks, Center Director Claudia Murphy said she was delighted to see so many successful students, as well as community members, who routinely partner with BOCES to provide adults with the skills and opportunities they need to succeed. There were several speakers at the 90-minute event, all of them encouraging the graduates to continue with their studies and to dream big.
“Everyday there are new opportunities and new experiences, and yet there are new challenges, too” Frank Williams, executive director of the City of White Plains Youth Bureau, told them. “And though you have worked very hard to come this far, your best days are already in front of you.”
Mr. Williams reminded the graduates of the opportunities that America can provide them.
“Keep on dreaming, keep on learning, keep on growing so you can be the very best that you can be,” he said.
Grace Heymann, executive director of The Westchester Hispanic Coalition, told the mostly immigrant audience to get civically involved.
“We are a powerful community, an untapped force,” she said. “Raise your voices to create change. It’s not enough to want a better life, it’s hard work.”
Referring to the strong partnership between Southern Westchester BOCES and Westchester Community College, Shawn Brown, assistant to the president and chief of staff at WCC, commended the graduates for their courage, confidence and commitment to bettering themselves, even in the face of challenges, such as family and work commitments.
“You have demonstrated that commitment and you are to be commended for that,” he said them.
Mr. Brown encouraged them to think about pursuing a certificate program or a two-year degree at WCC, or perhaps applying for the college’s Workforce Development/Career Training Program.
After receiving their certificates, four students were selected from each of the programs to speak about their experiences at BOCES.
John Kelly, an HSE graduate, told the audience that despite leaving high school in 2013, he yearned to get his high school diploma. After attending classes at the Center’s Harrison location, he told the audience that he had successfully passed the high school equivalency exam. The crowd applauded as he told them of his plans to attend Westchester Community College in the fall.
Toward the end of the evening, the Center’s many teachers assembled on the altar of the chapel, each with a rose in hand, an annual tradition at the student recognition ceremony that signifies the Center’s appreciation of its faculty.