On June 20th, 2013 at 6:00pm, the YWCA of Queens hosted its 2013 GED graduation ceremony at the Flushing Library honoring students who earned their GED certificate and those that successfully completed the YWCA GED preparation program funded by the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) and the Beautiful Foundation. 31 students and approximately 100 guests were present at the ceremony. Comptroller John Liu attended and awarded the two valedictorian students, Bilian Chen and Kessenia Rosario, with a special award, as well as gave a congratulatory message to the graduates. Senator Toby Ann Stavisky also sent special awards which were bestowed upon graduates at the ceremony. Greetings were given by Deputy Commissioner Suzanne Lynn on behalf of Commissioner of DYCD Jeanne Mullgrav and Chief of Staff Yuh-line Niou on behalf of Assemblyman Ron Kim. Read more about this event and visit our special photo gallery.
GED teacher William Spisak gave an inspirational speech, quoting from an assignment students completed when they first entered the program—an essay detailing their motivation for earning their GED. Mr. Spisak said, “One student wrote, ‘I want to get my GED to provide a better life for my daughter. I want to take care of her and give her a better childhood than the one I had.’ Another student wrote, ‘I want to break a family tradition. Everyone in my family has dropped out of school and I want to be the first to get my GED and make my family proud.’” There were also two student keynote speakers. The first, Kessenia Rosario, shared how before entering the program she was stuck in a low-pay, dead-end job, trying to support her four-year old daughter. Now, after earning her GED thanks to the help of the YWCA, she is enrolled in medical school to become a medical assistant. The second speaker, Bilian Chen, explained “My job before the YWCA was working in a takeout restaurant from 11am –11pm 7 days a week. I always had small dreams and plans and it cost me my health. The day I met the YWCA staff, everything changed. Through the help of the YWCA GED program, it’s teachers, and God, I am proud to announce I will be attending classes at Housatonic Community College in Connecticut this Fall and dream to one day be a Food Nutritionist.” There was also a “Student Open-Mic” segment where students could come to the stage to give a shout-out to those that supported them through the program. One of the most memorable moments of this segment was when 18-year-olds Yusif Zindani and his wife Jessica Krepp came to the stage with their newly born son, explaining how both completed the program together while Jessica was pregnant. She gave birth to her son two weeks after taking the GED test and now she and her husband both have their GEDs to provide a better life for their newborn baby.
In 2013, 100 students successfully completed either the YW-Access or YW-Advance GED preparation program at the YWCA of Queens. While most students have just completed the program and are still waiting to test, 37 have already earned their GED. The YWCA of Queens has consistently maintained a 70-75% passing rate in comparison to New York City’s 52% passing rate (the lowest in the nation). The 2013 class will be the last cohort of students to be trained for the existing GED examination before NYC transitions to the new High School Equivalency Exam (HSE) in January, 2014.