In front of over 80 people, Starshawn Williams shared her personal story with self-confidence and appreciation. The event was the Buffalo Public Schools Adult Education Division’s annual Partner and Student Recognition Breakfast held October 11th at Emerson Commons. As part of the program, Starshawn had been asked to reflect on her experience in the Division’s Allied Health Office Technology program.
You could hear a pin drop as she spoke about her husband’s work injury that forced their family to apply for public assistance and led her to seek the training needed to find a job. As a stay-at-home Mom, she realized she needed to learn new skills. She decided on a business sector – healthcare – where opportunities abound.
In addition to classroom instruction, the Division’s students receive expansive support services and Starshawn expressed her gratitude for that and the robust referral from her instructor, Mary Suchy, which was key to her finding gainful employment. Starshawn was hired as an administrative assistant in Erie 2 BOCES’s workforce development department upon graduating.
According to the BPS Adult Education Division’s Director Les Leopold, “Starshawn is one of approximately 2,200 students who enroll in workforce training programs that we offer to all Western New Yorkers. It’s gratifying to hear about her persistence and her achievements. We always want our students to obtain employment as a result of securing a credential with us.”
The event also featured New York State Education Department (NYSED) Commissioner MaryEllen Elia as the keynote speaker. Bishop Darius Pridgen was also recognized with the Division’s Making a Difference in Our Community Award for his strong support for the Adult Education Division, in particular its high school equivalency diploma program. Bishop Pridgen attends the annual graduation ceremony and shares an inspirational message each June with the new graduates who, last year, ranged in age from 17 to 65.
In her own remarks, Commissioner Elia praised Starshawn and the over 70 organizations, agencies, faith-based groups, businesses and elected officials who partner with the Adult Education Division by providing class site locations, wrap-around services for families, advocacy, and business expertise to insure that high-quality, relevant adult education is available to all of Western New York. “The reason we are here today is to recognize how critical it is for the entire community to be involved in education at all levels,” she said.
As Commissioner and President of the University of the State of New York, Ms. Elia oversees the work of more than 700 school districts with 3.2 million students; 7,000 libraries; 900 museums; and 52 professions encompassing more than 850,000 licensees. Over the summer, she toured the Adult Education Division’s Nurse Aide program and was impressed with what she saw. When she learned about the upcoming annual Partner and Student Recognition Breakfast, she asked to attend.
“We were delighted with Commissioner Elia’s enthusiasm for Buffalo Public Schools overall and we hope to welcome her back in the spring to learn more about all that our Division provides those who enroll in our programs.”
The Adult Education Division serves a total of 6,500 students in high school equivalency diploma classes, English as a Second Language classes, community education courses, and workforce training programs. All Western New York adults are welcome to enroll. More information is available at UpSkill.org.