Richard Gonzalez of Tarrytown has big plans that include enrolling in the plumbing program at Southern Westchester BOCES’ Careers Services campus in Valhalla.
First, though, he intends to complete the English as a Second Language course he takes here at the W.L. Morse School in Tarrytown.
Thanks to a $9,000 in state funding through the Office of State Sen. Terrence Murphy, R-Yorktown, Gonzalez and 15 fellow students will be able to obtain the career skills they need to make the transition from adult English Language Learners to eligible employees with workforce skills.
“Thank you for your help and for your support,” Gonzalez said when asked what he’d like to say to Sen. Murphy. “With this gift, it will help us progress in the future to find better jobs. There should be more people like you in our community who want to help our immigrants.”
Students like Gonzalez who are enrolled in SWBOCES’ Adult Literacy programs were identified for their academic progress and asked about their educational pursuits and goals. After potential training gaps were identified, career counselors introduced students to the wealth of training courses offered by the center’s Continuing Education Workforce Preparation program.
"Richard Gonzalez and his classmates deserve every opportunity to succeed," Sen. Murphy stated. "By partnering with the Southern Westchester BOCES, and providing critical funding for their English Language Learners program, New York State is investing in the future of Mr. Gonzalez and his family. These are the types of programs New York should be investing in more; preparing people today so they can achieve their goals tomorrow and become active and responsible citizens."
These students were asked to rank classes that aligned with training toward their career goals. Each was given the opportunity to attend a Workforce Preparation class best suited to them. Integral to this process is the partnership with the Workforce Development Board Career Centers where students can register for wraparound services available to eligible clients seeking new employment or to improve their current position.
Approximately two-thirds of the funding provided by Sen. Murphy will go directly to tuition assistance, supporting students in continuing their education beyond ESL to participate in workforce training that will bring them that much closer to their career goals. The balance of the funding will be reinvested into the ESL program.
Claudia Murphy, Senior Director of Adult, Community & Career Services, expressed her gratitude to Sen. Murphy for his support for both her students and programs.
The funding will allow students the opportunity to move freely on their career pathway from literacy education to the first steps of workforce training that can lead to improved employment at every level, Murphy said.
Besides direct tuition assistance, she explained that the funding will support critical instructional technology in the form of laptop computers and software to enable research, self-paced learning exercises and interest inventories to help align skills to careers.
“This speaks to our center’s purpose in always seeking new ways to reduce barriers for our students and to facilitate easy access to achieving a credential that can improve their lives,” Murphy said.
The Adult Literacy Center, a division of SWBOCES’ Center for Adult and Community Services, is designed to help to prepare adult learners for tomorrow's workforce today.
The program offers a rigorous curriculum aligned to the New York State Education Department requirements in an array of courses that include: English as a Second Language, Citizenship exam preparation and High School Equivalency exam preparation. For many adult learners, these programs are sought after in the community as the first step in the student’s pursuit of a better life for themselves and their families.
Building the skills to qualify for a better job allows adult learners to improve their lives and to contribute to the community in a meaningful way. Through these programs, students learn a variety of language acquisition strategies that enable them to comprehend and use the English language at various levels leading to proficiency.
Students attain crucial communication and time management skills, which is key for navigating not only the workplace but society as well. The preparation courses are designed to develop essential test taking competencies, while reviewing material necessary to pass the exams.
Upon successful completion of the program, students with specific interests in high-demand careers may choose to register for Workforce Preparation courses also offered by the center.
Raffaela DiMartino has taught ESL for SWBOCES for 30 years. An immigrant herself, coming to the U.S. at age 14, she says her students relate to her.
“They love to come here,” DiMartino says. “They feel comfortable.”
Norma Minchalo of Sleepy Hollow is a native of Ecuador and a mother of four. She hopes to study to become a certified nurse assistant. This is her first year in the ESL program.
“It’s very important,” she said of her studies. “It’s very important for my kids to have this example.”
Gonzalez agreed. His extended family members speak English well, so this will help him at home as well as it will help him at work.
In a speech to her classmates, Minchalo expressed thanks to Sen. Murphy for his support for the program.
“I have made it my goal to speak the language,” she said. “I promise you that we will continue to do our best.”
Maria Guerrero, supervisor of the Adult Literacy Center, told the class that their hard work helped secure support for the program.
“Congratulations to all because this is for you guys,” Guerrero said.