WOONSOCKET – Ophelia Soe wanted to succeed in her new home after coming to Providence from Liberia but needed a little help to do so.
Enter the staff at the Rhode Island Regional Adult Learning program. They helped Soe, a Providence resident, to get the support in completing English, reading and math courses she needed to get into a college program at the Community College of Rhode Island in the fall.
“I’m so excited, I’m going to college,” Soe said on Thursday as she and 13 of her fellow RIRAL Transition to College program students collected their diplomas at a graduation ceremony held in the Harris Public Library Community Room. Soe’s family came along to celebrate her success as did the family members of many of the other program graduates.
“This program really gave me the foundation I needed to push myself into college,” she said.
Mayor Leo T. Fontaine echoed Soe’s sentiments while noting his conversations with prior graduates of the program. “They felt blessed by all the people working to support them in their efforts,” he said. Fontaine added that he was also impressed with the efforts of the latest Transition to College graduates to gain higher education. “I wish you the very best and if there is ever anything I can do to help, certainly call on me,” Fontaine said.
Robert Cipolla, dean of student development/assessment at CCRI, told the students the ceremony was just a first step in what would be a rewarding in experience in higher education.
“I hope this is just one commencement of many that you will be experiencing in the future,” he said. “You made a commitment to yourselves to do the work you determined was needed for you to reach your goals so you would have the opportunity to enter college,’’ Cipolla said.
“Tonight we celebrate you because you have been accepted to a number of college programs,” he said.
The students were also lauded by Brenda McGill, director of advising and counseling at CCRI, and Kim Chouinard, assistant to the head of adult education at the R.I. Department of Education.
“This is an important stop in your education and I want you to think about that strength that must be sitting in all of you that made you able to do this,” McGill said.
McGill also praised the staff at RIRAL, its instructors and counselors, who helped the program participants in obtaining their diplomas.
“The staff members were there to support you and you knew they would do whatever they could to keep you from quitting,” McGill said.
The result of their work is that the program members have already “taken the road less travelled,” McGill said. “You are going to college and that is awesome,” she said.
The graduates then rose one at a time to get their diplomas from Patricia Bellart, RIRAL executive director, and the special guests.
Monica Gutierrez of Pawtucket will be using her diploma to attend CCRI in the fall. “It’s a wonderful program and it was really worth it,” Gutierrez said. “It helped me a lot and I am going to college in the fall,” she said. Jose Fred-Perez of Woonsocket shared her views as he collected his own diploma from the program. “It’s great. I’m going to college next year,” Perez said.
The list of graduates follows:
John Daignault, Priscilla Morales, Georgia J. Duncan, Hugh Miller, Gladys Franco, Alba Patricia Pena, Monica Gutierrez, Jose Fred-Perez, Emma T. Makor, Ophelia Soe, Rita Miranda, Sambo Sok, Norma Morales and Aparicio Zunum-Cux.