Adult Education Graduation

“You will hear stories tonight that will leave you in awe,” said Dr. James Ryan, District Superintendent of Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES, in his opening remarks at the Adult Education graduation on June 14. He looked over the podium at the graduates. “Congratulations on your accomplishments. Each one of you is a success story.”

The one hundred and forty-three graduates received his words seriously. Most had juggled work and parenting, some also with assimilating into a new country and learning English, to get to this point.

“I had my first daughter at age sixteen, and all I could think of was providing for her,” said Brentani E. M. Blair, a Peekskill mother of two young daughters. “I wanted to go back to high school, but between caring for her and working full time it was difficult,” she said.

Thanks to the flexible schedule and encouraging teachers at Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES Adult Education program, Blair received her high school equivalency diploma on Wednesday evening. She was also one of two graduate speakers and a recipient of the Doris A. Riendeau Academic Achievement Award.

“I want to go to nursing school. I’m ready,” said Blair. “I will achieve my dreams.”

Mira Hercegovina, a Slovakian immigrant now residing in Cross River, also spoke at the graduation. “I came here with no knowledge of the English language. My journey began with a single phone call to the Adult Education program,” she said. “Now I have my diploma—and I am a naturalized citizen of the USA!”

“Our diplomas will open doors for all of us,” said Hercegovina. “I am planning to study medical billing and coding. Who knows what the future holds after that.”

After the ceremony, Christina Giorgio, an Adult Education Teacher at the Michael J. DiBart Neighborhood Center in Peekskill, stood with two of her students. “This is my twenty fifth year in this very rewarding work,” she said. “I teach all of the subjects: Reading/Language Arts, Writing, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies. Students come in with a wide range of abilities and knowledge of English—but they all want to be there and to achieve their goals.”

Eddie Ferran, a resident of Peekskill, agreed. “I took the math test six times. Now I will go on to college. This is a stepping stone.”