Adult Literacy Program students honored at emotional end-of-year recognition

Program serving nearly 2,400 students includes 36 newly sworn-in Americans and 48 GED recipients

graduates holding certificatesSilvia Flores was a bundle of nervous energy as she waited for the Southern Westchester BOCES Center for Adult & Community Services Student Recognition Ceremony to begin.

She had accomplished much to make it to this day. However, representing the Citizenship Exam Preparation program before a packed audience at St. Gabriel’s School in New Rochelle felt like a formidable task.

“I’m so happy,” she said. “It’s an excellent program. It helps a lot of people. My teacher was unbelievable.”

Silvia, a Mount Vernon resident, came to the U.S. in 1991 from Mexico . She took the Oath of Citizenship in January after passing the Citizenship exam she prepared for in Teacher Maria de Fatima Braga's class at SWBOCES.

Hers was one of several such inspiring stories shared with the 300 students who were honored at the June 20 event. They were joined in the St. Gabriel’s auditorium by family members of all ages, many bearing balloons and flowers and cheering eagerly for the accomplishments of their loved ones.

graduate shakes administrators' hand

“You have much to be proud of,” Director of Adult & Community Services Tracy Racicot said. “We are so thrilled to be with you this evening.”

“It might have felt like you had taken on an impossible task, but you made it,” District Superintendent Dr. Harold A. Coles said.

Dignitaries on hand for the event included state Assemblyman Steven Otis and New Rochelle Councilwoman Martha Lopez, who credited the students with overcoming many obstacles and doing so with grace and humility. She told them her own parents came to the U.S. 55 years ago with a dream that their children would succeed.

“And today you represent that dream,” Ms. Lopez said.

graduate with daughter and son

“One great thing about America,” Assemblyman Otis added,” is that we all root for the success of others. I’m thrilled to be able to be here to celebrate your success and your graduation.”

Students filed across the stage to receive their certificates along with congratulations from Dr. Coles, Deputy Superintendent/COO Dr. Brendan Lyons, Assistant Superintendent James Gratto and Adult Literacy Program Supervisor Maria Guerrero.

Maria Miranda, a previous HSE graduate, returned to tell the evening’s honorees her story of arriving from Nicaragua in 2015 at 22 years old with her husband and their 2-year-old son. A first job cleaning houses inspired her to seek something better. SWBOCES provided the pathway and opportunities, particularly teacher Jose Bohorquez’s class.

“We were students full of dreams and wonderful stories,” Maria said. “I just want to say, thank you teacher.”

View more photos on the SWBOCES Facebook page.