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Literacy and a new lease on life - Graduates celebrate with essays, stories and poems

A beaming group of New Yorkers, including 50 year-old Linda Swinson of Sheepshead Bay, 46 year-old Adwoa Nyamekye of Flatbush and 34 year-old Mourad Dahmoun of Fort Hamilton, took center stage and demonstrated skills that would have been unimaginable just a year ago: they read out loud from essays, stories, and poems that they themselves had written.

These adults were among six students honored at the Literacy Partners Student and Volunteer Recognition Celebration where they were applauded for their dramatic accomplishments in learning to read and write.

Literacy Partners, Inc. is the only nationally accredited adult literacy program serving New York City.

Swinson, Nyamekye, Dahmoun and other honorees showcased their newly acquired literacy skills at this annual event held at Our Lady of Pompeii Church in Manhattan. The ceremony was attended by family, friends and supporters as well as Literacy Partners volunteer tutors and staff.

The student readers were representative of nearly 3.7 million New York adults who cannot read above the fifth grade level. Approximately 2,000 New York City adult students participate in Literacy Partners programs every year where they learn the basic literacy skills essential to live a full life as individuals, parents and citizens.

“Literacy Partners changes thousands of lives each year by unlocking the key to succeeding in today’s world — knowing how to read and write,” said Susan A. McLean, executive director of Literacy Partners. “But it takes courage and determination to step forward, ask for help, and work hard to achieve the goal of literacy. Today we are proud to honor these men and women who made the brave decision to turn their lives around. We also recognize the devoted volunteers and staff who enable our students to achieve their dreams.”

Swinson read her original essay, “Going to the Fourth Floor,” about the obstacles she faced growing up that prevented her from succeeding in school. She also described the overwhelming pride she now experiences as a Literacy Partners student.

Nyamekye read “My Life,” a personal essay about being deprived of an education in her homeland of Ghana and the challenges she faced upon moving to the United States.

Adult student Dahmoun read his essay, “The Reason I Come to Class,” in which he marveled about the great coffee his teacher provides to students to make them feel comfortable in class. Like all of the honorees, Swinson, Nyamekye and Dahmoun demonstrated that it is never too late to learn to read.

Literacy Partners also presented special awards to volunteer tutors and staff in appreciation of their tireless efforts to teach adult New Yorkers to read. Caitlin McGuire of Dyker Heights was honored with the Literacy Partners Staff Volunteer Award in recognition of the quality of her work as assistant director of education and her extraordinary work as a volunteer tutor after hours.

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