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This spring, more than 170 adult students celebrated their accomplishments at the Adult Learner Program graduation ceremony. In a rousing speech, the ceremony’s keynote speaker, Columbia University’s Dr. Christopher Emdin, encouraged the graduates to hold onto all the history of where they came from and combine it with what they’ve learned to make a new future.

“If you erase your past on the path to the future, your future becomes a version that belongs to someone else,” he told them. “Your past is your magic...Everybody else who is out there does not have the magic of your story.”

Graduate Sharon Brady, who earned her high school equivalency diploma from Peninsula Adult Learning Center, spoke of living the majority of her life in poverty and of leaving high school due to financial burdens. Her goal was that her son would graduate college—while she still hoped that she could complete her own education. Now, her son has graduated—and she, too, has fulfilled her dream. She thanked her teacher, whose diligence, she said, transformed her life. She failed math six times, but the teachers never gave up on her. Now, she’s a paraprofessional with the NYC Department of Education and says she owes all of her recent successes to this program, which offers many a way out of what she said are desperate situations.

Alexandra Lopez, from Long Island City Adult Learning Center, explained that she came from Colombia full of dreams, and that thanks to the dedication of amazing educators, today is not the end of her journey but the beginning.

Jeneka McKenzie, who earned her high school equivalency diploma through the Young Adult Literacy Program (YALP), spoke of the need for discipline, commitment, and courage. McKenzie, who immigrated to Queens two years ago from Jamaica, said, “Life is a journey, and sometimes the journey is not what you planned or maybe you didn’t know a plan was needed.” She thanked the extraordinary people who had an unwavering belief in her. McKenzie now works as a part-time employee at the Job and Business Academy and told the audience, “No matter how many times you fail, as long as you never give up, you can accomplish anything.”

Jasmine Saintil-Lucien, an only child from Haiti who is a mother herself, spoke of her dream to become a nurse and her desire to make her parents proud. While taking English classes at the library, she learned of the opportunity to get a home health aide certificate. This was her chance to start her career as a health professional.

All of the speakers credited their teachers’ tireless work for their successes. Congratulations to all of the graduates and thank you to the amazing staff at the Adult Learning Centers and the Job and Business Academy!

Please visit the webpages for our Adult Learner Program, Young Adult Literacy Program, and High School Equivalency Diploma programs if you are interested in continuing your education.

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