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Adult Literacy front and center at the Palace

A boisterous, happy crowd honored the adult students who received high school equivalency diplomas through the Onondaga, Cortland and Madison county Board of Continuing Educational Services (OCM BOCES) on May 22 at the Palace Theatre in Eastwood. Most of the 184 diploma-qualified students were at the ceremony, as well as a large group of students who were recognized for completing 100 hours of class time.

Graduates received diplomas for either a general equivalency degree (GED) or a program where adult students receive a degree from their local high school called the external diploma program (EDP). The "100-Hour" students are working towards a degree, or studying English as a second language (ESL).

This 25th annual Adult Literacy Celebration included students who earned their degrees in 2007 and 2008. Although 22 students who earned their degrees this month will be honored at the event next year, said Laurie Cook, school information officer.

A"Partner in Literacy"

During the program, special recognition was given to Cindy Hibbert, a librarian for nine years at the Liverpool Public Library, for her work with the Literacy in the Arts program.

Students earning either degree, as well as those studying ESL, participated by reading Nicholas Spark's "The Notebook" along with Hibbert and their BOCES teachers. Afterwards the group watched and discussed a film adaptation of the novel.

Many of the students had never read a novel before, but couldn't wait to read another, said Hibbert. She taught the students how to use the library catalog and databases. Out of the group of 25 students, 13 brand-new library cards were issued, Hibbert said.

Proud Community

The audience stood as the beaming students entered the theatre in their caps and gowns. As the graduates marched to their seats, then later filed one-by-one across the stage, friends and family members craned their necks and pointed out loved ones. The audience clapped, hooted and cried throughout the ceremony.

County Executive Joanie Mahoney acknowledged the courage shown by adult students returning to school. The graduates are role models moving the community towards a brighter future, she said.

After the ceremony, Mynekka Chase, who lives on the south side of Syracuse, said it took her less than a year to earn her GED. She is applying to study criminal justice at Onondaga Community College in the fall. Now she reads newspapers, magazines and books.

"I like all kinds of books, my favorite author is James Patterson," she said.

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