Thursday, 20 June 2013 00:00
Thirty-eight Westbury and Freeport High School students enrolled in Abilities, Inc., at The Viscardi Center’s Prosper Drop-Out Prevention/Attendance program were recently recognized for their accomplishments. Prosper (People Reaching for Opportunities to Succeed Personally, Educationally and Realistically) shows adolescents the relevancy of education as it relates to employment and works towards preventing them from dropping out of school while preparing them for the business world upon graduation.
The program completion exercises were held at the center’s campus in Albertson before a crowd of parents, teachers, staff, administrators, board members and the business community. In opening remarks, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice told of her personal challenges and encouraged students to confront theirs so that they too could set and achieve their own goals, proclaiming, “You need to feel the fear and do it anyway.”
Jessica Swirsky, president and chief operating officer of Abilities, Inc., at The Viscardi Center, spoke about students changing the direction of their lives.
“The outcomes for this program have been exceptional, with so many of the graduates becoming contributing members of our workforce and communities,” she said.
Since its inception in 1997, 98 percent of some 800 students have completed high school and continued on to post-secondary education, employment, the military, vocational training or technical school. This year, 24 of the students have already secured summer jobs as a result of the resume development and interview preparation they received through the program. Students receive up to four elective credits from their school districts for completing the program, which is a unique partnership among colleges/universities, high schools and local business and industry.
Keity Beltrez, a Freeport High School student, praised Prosper staff and said she “met some inspiring people on the tours,” referring to college visits that are part of the program curriculum. Keity’s application essay noted how she knew she had made some poor decisions and how she felt the program could provide the focus and guidance needed to take ownership of her behavior and put her on a course for future success.
Also at the event, a parent made a poignant statement about the program when she took the podium and spoke about her son, Deandre Robinson. She told the audience, “They turned him into being a man.”
Jim Mollé, coordinator of Prosper noted that, “every student gets real-life skills,” adding that “the communities they [students] come from benefit three-fold: the schools access specialized support services they might not otherwise have been able to provide; tax dollars produce a tangible result; and young adults are better equipped to make solid contributions and lead productive lives.”
All students received a certificate for completing the program, and special honors were issued for outstanding achievement. Top students, in three categories, were: Wendi Herrera, Westbury High School, Katey Pastor, Freeport High School, and Dominique Thompson, Freeport High School (first place); Nia Patterson, Westbury High School, Rayven Marrow, Freeport High School and Keity Beltrez, Freeport High School (second place); and Kaitlyn Phalen-Dee, Westbury High School, Rebecca Fleurelus, Freeport High School, and Tamika Jean, Freeport High School (third place).
Honors for best attendance went to Erik Aguilar, Westbury High School, Katey Pastor, Freeport High School and Michelle Lavaud, Freeport High School. Most improved were Jordan Hardware, Westbury High School, Deric Douglas, Freeport High School and Christian Nunez, Freeport High School. The program concluded with a music video featuring students expressing sentiments about how the program has helped them grow and change in positive ways.