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CCRI celebrates those who completed
GED® to College and Career classes

May 30, 2014

President Ray Di Pasquale congratulates Joel Ventura, who had perfect attendance in the College Readiness Program. President Ray Di Pasquale congratulates Joel Ventura, who had perfect attendance in the College Readiness Program.

The crowd milling about the atrium of the Community College of Rhode Island Liston Campus was all smiles on Wednesday night, ready to celebrate the accomplishments of local students who had participated in one of the college's GED® to College and Career classes.

Nine students who had either taken the GED® test or were preparing to do so were on hand to hear remarks from administration and a well-deserved round of applause from friends and family members. Over the course of the 2013-14 academic year, 32 students completed the program, with 19 earning GED® credentials and 23 moving on to postsecondary education.

"The students we work with have a good reason to celebrate," said Sharon Miles, director of Adult Education/Literacy for the Center for Workforce and Community Education (CWCE) at the college. "For many of them, this is a chance to get back what they lost. To come back to a world of education and opportunity."

This year, special emphasis was placed on the fact that some of the students on hand had taken the new, all-computerized GED® test, which was put in place in January of this year. Angela Salvadore, coordinator of the College Readiness Program, has been instrumental in designing a program to help faculty and staff at the college as they work to help students prepare for the redesigned exam.

The first student to pass the 2014 version GED® exam from CCRI was Ciara Sam, who was on hand with her family to be recognized at the celebration. The second student to take and pass the GED® exam, Joel Ventura, was one of the two students who had perfect attendance for the program's 75 class meetings. He took a moment to talk about his journey and the path ahead.

"I'm planning on getting my associate degree from CCRI, and then moving on to a four-year college and eventually going to dental school for orthodontics. I've always known that's what I wanted to do," he said, noting that his older brothers are dental assistants and his sister is a medical assistant.

Ventura, 18, is originally from St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, but moved to Providence after he was dropped back two grades in the educational system of the Dominican Republic, where he was living with his father. "I was 18 in 10th grade. So I came here to get my GED® credential and continue on to college," he said.

Some of the other students who were assembled had different tales to tell. Nancy Ramirez, the other student with perfect attendance, was one of those who wanted to come back to make up for lost time and make a better life for her family. She dropped out of high school 17 years ago and, after life gave her four children and more maturity, she knew that college was her next step.

"I have four kids. It was just time. I wanted to give them a better future. My plan is to continue on to CCRI in the fall, and work toward being a psychologist or social worker," she said.

No matter what each student's background – or what his or her plans were for the future – the theme of the night was taking a moment to look back on how far they all have come. "These are remarkable achievements, and all of you should be walking a little bit taller," said Miles in her opening remarks.

Both college President Ray Di Pasquale and Dr. Walter Crocker, who jokingly referred to himself as the "principal" of the Liston Campus, said that while the students merited their fare share of recognition, they owed a debt of gratitude to their supportive friends and families, many of whom joined them in the audience that night.

Crocker invited family members to come up front to take pictures of their students as they received certificates acknowledging their hard work. "Come up as close as you need to," he said. "You'll have a keepsake to remember this special night."

Melissa Hernandez and family.The support network for each student was visible. Whole families crowded around tables to proudly snap pictures of their college-bound role models. At student Melissa Hernandez's table, for example, her mother, mother-in-law, husband and daughter were there to watch her celebrate her achievement.

"I left high school for personal reasons," said Hernandez as her daughter Dannelyss, 3, sat on her lap. "But I wanted to be a role model for my daughter. My husband, Edwin, was always on my side and he wanted me to have a better education, too. So I decided to go take my GED® [credential]. I've taken a CNA class at CCRI and hopefully after I take my final exam I'll work as a CNA after that," she said.

Student Indhira Paulino, who came to Providence by way of the Dominican Republic, sat with her mother by her side before the ceremony. Paulino said she is interested in pursuing a theater degree, and she's excited for her new adventure. "It means a lot to me," she said, noting that she planned to start at CCRI in the fall and would be taking her GED® exam next week.

Warren WrayMiles explained that many of the students who pass through the College Readiness Program do matriculate to CCRI once they have earned their GED® credential. One of those students, Warren Wray of Providence, said that he couldn't wait to start pursuing his engineering degree at the college in the fall once he took the GED® exam. "It was time for me to make a change in my life," said Wray. "It feels good. I knocked a goal off my list, and now I have more to do. I'm ready for it."

In his remarks, Di Pasquale pointed out that if students go on to complete their bachelor's degree, they can anticipate making 65 percent more, on average, in their lifetime than someone who only has a high school diploma. When he asked the students how many of them planned to move on to pursue their bachelor's, hands proudly shot up across the room. "You don't want to stop," he said. "I'm here for one simple reason: to congratulate you and to honor you, but really, also to tell you that this is just the beginning of something pretty exciting."

Robin A. Smith, associate vice president for CWCE, and Kim Chouinard, adult education specialist for the Rhode Island Department of Education, also gave remarks that evening. Salvadore gave a nod to the staff and faculty that make these programs possible, including the program's instructors on both the Flanagan and Liston campuses. Math instructor Daniel Greco, reading and writing instructors Gylean Trabucchi and Bonnie Taylor, and math instructor Jenifer LoVetere were recognized, as well as case manager Jane Reggio and Transitions to College Coordinator Jane May.

GED® preparation graduates, Hernandez, Paulino, Ramirez, Sam, Ventura and Wray along with Enid Bonilla, Yomary Nunez and Derek DaRosa were all recognized that night. Student Melinda Headen received the annual David J. Bedrosian-Providence Journal Scholarship and was designed as the student speaker for the evening, but unfortunately could not make the event because of a family emergency. Sam, Ramirez, Derosa, Wray, Hernandez, Nunez, Bonilla and Ventura were all also honored with the Commitment, Dedication and Extraordinary Effort Award.

"Always remember to live your dream, and never give up," said Salvadore, in closing.


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