NYACCE Annual Student of the Year Nomination: Jermaine S. Cook
Jermaine Cook shares an all too common story growing up in Brooklyn. Jermaine unfortunately
succumbed to the pressures of his environment which led him to drop out of high school by the time he
reached the tenth grade. Without an actively supportive home life, both his brother and mother were
involved with illicit drugs and criminal activity, Jermaine came to rely on his grandmother as a means of
guidance in his life. During the course of his studies Jermaine’s brother would be imprisoned at New
York’s infamous Riker’s Island and his grandmother would sadly pass away. Facing unseen levels of
emotional stress and difficulties Jermaine persevered and took over responsibility for housing issues that
stem from his brother’s incarceration. He is vigorously trying to resolve these issues so that he can move
forward with his educational goals, apply for college and continue his valiant efforts in furthering his
Jermaine first came to City Tech Adult Learning Center in 2015, but was ultimately referred to
another program because we did not offer classes that were adequate for someone with his test levels.
Jermaine, however, persevered. He followed our advice and joined the program we referred him to, doing
his best to improve his academic skills. Once he overcame that feat he was able to join us this time as a
full-fledged student in April 2016. He stuck with our program and buckled down on his studies until
ultimately he passed the TASC exam in March of 2019.
Jermaine first took the TASC exam in April of 2017 after being promoted from our lower level
classes to an intermediate course. He was able to pass almost every subject with the exception being
Math. Jermaine’s teacher, Davida Holmes, remembers him as being “distracted and unprepared” but
something changed in him; evolving as a student, he became focused, and a motivator for others.
Jermaine put all his efforts into math and realized that he needed to do work outside of class if he wanted
to pass the math subtest; he began asking for more work from his teachers and watching YouTube videos.
He became an agent of his own progress and eventually started making his own videos explaining math
concepts he understood, which he uploaded onto the Facebook page he created to help others in math.
Over the course of those two years we would realize that Jermaine’s dedication and focus really
helped drive him on his mission to overcome the Math portion of the exam. During the two years he
stayed on to focus on Mathematics, he persevered in the face of adversity, criticism from peers,
frustration with testing content, and even family pressure that would have made anyone buckle. But under
such circumstances and scrutiny he never deterred from his goal. Persistence, determination, and the
feeling that one “can’t give up” – to use Jermaine’s own words – is what got him to cross the finish line.
At the beginning of his studies, he knew he wanted his High School Equivalency Diploma, but hadn’t
thought far beyond that. By the end of his studies, he got his diploma and, within weeks, registered for a
Security Guard training course – already a new goal in mind.
He is currently looking for employment as a security guard so he can establish a stable income
before heading off to college. He is also involved with the Brooklyn Library’s Friends Group; a group
designed to help neighborhood kids stay off the streets. He tutors students in the subject that once held
him back, continuing to motivate others in the way he motivated so many of his classmates at the Adult
Learning Center. Jermaine is an inspiration to all the students who come so close, yet feel so far from
success; as he always said to those around him, “Never give up because great things take time.”
Meet Salomon from Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation -Submitted by Sara Chapman & Jason Bocko
Salomon received NMIC's Igniting Hope at our 40th Anniversary Gala. It was one of two awards given out that day (the other was to Mutual of America). After receiving his award he got a standing ovation.
I've included his acceptance speech as well as some pictures of the event as well as the introduction Ms. Argueta and I gave.
I once again want to thank you all for making NMIC the place it is. I couldn't imagine another organization where a story like Salomon's is possible - and I can't imagine another team that would be able to make it happen. Thank you all.
In New York City, 40% of adults lack a high school diploma. This means a lack of opportunities for further education and the ability to obtain jobs and get better jobs. There are many reasons an adult might lack their diploma – a difficult home life, under resourced schools, disability – the list is as long as the amount of those without their diploma, and the barriers only grow the longer they’ve been out of school. Every year, NMIC helps over 150 students confront those barriers, earn their diplomas, continue to pursue their dreams and build a prosperous life.
Today we are honoring one of those adults who overcame great barriers to achieve his high school equivalency diploma, Salomon Severin.
Salomon first came to NMIC four years ago while he was living in a group home nearby. He was determined to get his diploma. Having had a difficult time in High School due to his disabilities, Salomon was unable to finish. Confronted with his lack of a diploma and the desire to pursue his dreams, Salomon first came through our doors in the summer 2015.
At first progress was slow. But Salomon didn’t give up. He continued his studies every semester. All of this was despite a change in his living situation. With the tireless support of our counselors and teachers, after three years in our program, he was ready to test in 2018. After taking his exam the first time, he passed all subjects except science. He did not let that discourage him. Salomon continued his studies for an entire year until he tested again in 2019 and passed his final exam.
Not only has Salomon’s dedication helped him achieve his dreams – he will tell you about his next steps – it has inspired those around him. In those four years of class, Salomon encouraged his classmates to keep going. In May of 2019, he used his story to inspire those outside of NMIC. In front of City Hall, while giving a speech about the importance of adult literacy classes in his life and so many others he shared what he learned. “I learned that we must help each other and learn from each other – and when we do that, our chances for success are much greater.”
It is my honor to present Salomon Severin with NMIC’s Igniting Hope Award
Thank you very much,
I am very happy to receive this award because it will inspire others. With shared effort we all can be great and learn something new.
I want to thank everyone at NMIC, including Jason and Jennifer for believing in me and encouraging me to pursue my passion and my dreams. I would also like to thank the teachers at NMIC, including Jessica Hendler, Dr. Schenker,Mr. Ambrosino, and Mr. Rojas for encouraging me to be a great sutdent. It was a shared effort. They did a terrific job of helping me out when I was struggling and I could turn to them for guidance and they helped me be a great student and encourage others to pursue their passions.
I hope the that this encourages other students to believe in themselves and pursue their diploma and pursue their dream.
You just got to go get it.
You have to give back to your community and encourage people to pursue their dreams. Its important to be respectful, and listen and guide others to pursue a bright future.
Once again, thank you very much.
"Education is a right and we need to keep advocating for it."
On a rainy morning, hundreds of adult ESOL students gathered under umbrellas at Brooklyn Borough Hall to rally for adult literacy funding. They were a mighty force to behold, their signs held high in the air. At the forefront standing proudly was our student, Gicela Jarquin. She spoke confidently and passionately in front of various literacy organizations and elected officials. “Education is a right and we need to keep advocating for it,” Gicela proclaimed amid loud applause.
Gicela’s journey at Literacy Partners started last year when she joined our English For Parents classes in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. As a single mother in Mexico, earning enough to provide basic needs and an education for her children was challenging. She had to work more than 15 hours a day to make ends meet. She decided to immigrate to the United States and focus on ensuring her children Reina, Isabel, Enrique, Jayden, and Emily will have the opportunities she did not.
Gicela realized that because of her language limitations, she was missing the opportunity of helping her children. “If I want to keep improving, I need to practice and keep learning,” she told us. Gicela’s improvements don’t go unnoticed. At her children's school, teachers compliment her improved language skills and how she’s better able to advocate for her children as a result. “It made me feel really happy to hear that. Those moments motivate me – I root for myself now,” she said.
Gicela understands how far she’s come and it has motivated her to go even further. She is an active community member of a Parent Teacher Association and the Diversity Committee at PS1. When interviewed by NY1 Noticias, she told them that “the opportunity to be the voice of all immigrants, not only Latinos, but the entire immigrant community [is exciting].”
Gicela cites her experience as our 2019 Gala speaker as her highlight of the year. She shared her story on stage in front of more than 400 guests. “It was an unforgettable experience, I felt like a whole different person,” she said with tearful eyes. The evening proved to Gicela that she can achieve anything in life. Seeing her children beaming with pride as guests congratulated her was priceless, especially because of the example it set for them: “Once you set a goal for yourself and work towards it, nothing can stop you.” Literacy Partners is proud of Gicela’s achievements and the role model she’s become as she advocates for other immigrant families like her own.
My name is Yekaterina. I am from Kazakhstan. It’s really far from here—it’s close to Russia. I’ve been living in New York for about two years now.
I like to go out for fun and just to walk around New York because there’s still a lot of places that I didn’t visit yet. And there’s always something new you can find on the street.
I speak Russian, that’s my first language, I speak English, Chinese, and Ukrainian.
My friend told me that there is a program in Manhattan that provides intensive English classes. Adult Literacy helped me a lot and our teacher was great. His name was Jay, and he was a great teacher—he taught me a lot and I learned a lot from him.
My goals were to find a place in the United States, to start a new life and first of all I needed to know the language that people speak around me to find a good job and to fit in the society.
I found my first job at University Settlement at Adult Literacy. While working as an office assistant, I learned a lot about the environment in the office. That’s the first thing that was a bit different for me because that was the first time that I worked in the United States and everything is new. So that was a big, huge step for me here in the United States to get a job in the office.
Thanks to Adult Literacy I found another job, a full-time job, at University Settlement at the Consultation Center. The Consultation Center is a mental health clinic at University Settlement. We help people who struggle with mental health issues and I am an administrative assistant there. I’m happy to have that job because, again, it helps you a lot when you move from another country and you start your life from zero to get a full-time job in an office and with a good environment—it’s amazing!
I want to tell you that program is an amazing program, Adult Literacy is an amazing program, because you can find a program that’s free and it’s intensive English and they help you with your job, they help you to build your resume, they help you to study English, and there’s so many things that this program helped me with. So I’m really grateful for that.