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Gateway to College and Careers giving students second chance at education

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MASSENA - For 23 men and women from the Massena area, Thursday afternoon was a celebration of their accomplishments, as they completed the first of three “cycles” in a 24-week adult education program.

The program titled, “Gateway to Colleges and Careers” is a federally funded operated locally through St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES.

Students in the program are all men and women 18 and older, many of whom are seeking high school equivalency.

“The whole idea is to turn Massena into a learning community,” said Transition Navigator Pat Tubbs. “If you don’t have your degree, this is your opportunity. If you just got laid off and need a new career, this is your opportunity and if you just want to learn some new skills, this is your opportunity.”

Explaining the role of transition navigator, Ms. Tubbs said, “My job is to connect students to the community and connect the community to the program.”

Students participating in the program make their way through three different eight week cycles, with incentives and recognition available at the completion of each cycle.

Students honored Thursday included 23 men and women who have completed the program’s first cycle.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Kara Smith, who was proudly wearing a blue polo shirt decorated with the Gateway logo.

“When you’re in this program it broadens your horizons and opens up the gateway to your future.”

Julie Jessmer was also among the students honored Thursday.

“I went up six grade levels in math and actually got the highest score in the class on the pre-GED,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been here.”

Ms. Jessmer said she’s now planning to further her education.

“I plan on going to college for business administration,” she said. “Because of this program I got such a high score. They told me I could probably get into anywhere.”

The program’s first cycle began this winter with 30 students, 23 of them whom completed the first phase of the program, which now includes 42 students.

“Some these students will be sitting for their high school equivalency exams, some will transition into secondary education and some will seek employment,” said St. Lawrence Lewis BOCES Adult Education Supervisor Lisa McKeel.

Following the recognition ceremony students were treated to cake donated by Hannafords.

“This program is showing students how education leads to opportunity,” Ms. Tubbs said.

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