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SCHOOL STORY: EDUCATION FOR "DREAMERS"

The Centro Hispano Marista Provides GED Preparation Classes
(From the Feb 10, 2017 Update Report by Dr. Leticia Valencu,
Program Director for the Centro Hispano Marista)

The Centro Hispano Marista LogoThe Centro Hispano Marista is a program for Hispanic adults that opened with the help of the Marist Fathers and Brothers and at the Marist School in Atlanta, Georgia in August 2012. Its purpose is to offer an opportunity for young, Hispanic adults to prepare and obtain their GED® Certification. This will enable them to pursue higher education and to obtain better jobs.

An important aspect of the Centro Hispano Marista mission is to reach out, in the name of Jesus and in the spirit of Mary, His Mother, to those who are forgotten or neglected by society.

The Centro Hispano Marista continues to provide General Education Development (GED) preparation classes to young Hispanic adults who, for a variety of reasons, did not have a chance to finish their secondary education earlier in life.

The Centro Hispano Marista also continues to enable "Dreamers" (young adults who entered the United States as children and who are seeking a Deferred Action status under Deferred Action for Childhood DACA) to complete the education requirement of this status, which allows them to stay in the United States and work legally here.

The Centro Hispano Marista intends to
reach out to and uplift those marginalized by poverty,
and who are in great need of an education.

It is a key part of our program to keep our students motivated and encouraged as we offer a safe and welcoming environment that overlaps with the mission of the Society of Mary. It is with great pleasure that we send you an update of our 2016 fall semester and graduation.

Centro Hispano Marista GED Graduating Class

Students
We finished our first half of the 2016-2017 fall semester this January.
During the fall semesters we began with 565 students and classes started September 20th through December 13th. For the 2017 spring semester, we have 525 students enrolled who start classes February 7th though May 16th.

The smaller number is due in part to the political instability towards immigration during the registration period. The demand, however seems to be increasing after last week's message that DACA may not be immediately revoked. We will keep closely monitoring the political environment.

Graduates
We celebrated our largest graduation cohort this December 13th, 2016.
We applauded the 63 Centro's graduates who received their GED accreditation during 2016. As of Feb. 2017, we already had seven graduates for the 2017 Graduation. We are looking forward to increase this number during the next few months
.

Centro Hispano Marista Graduates Throwing Their Caps

We continue to develop opportunities for our graduates to network, encourage each other, and find additional openings to continue their educational and career goals. Every time a student obtains their GED certificate, we send them information about several colleges that accept DACA students. We plan to include an education fair that will feature small colleges/universities during our second Alumni Reunion scheduled for this May.

Teachers
This semester, we are grateful to have 47 active teachers who teach various classes every Tuesday, and 21 tutors and substitute teachers.
We will be introducing tutorials before the GED classes to complement the Saturday tutorials that are currently available. We also have dozens of Marist School students who volunteer for different tasks. Last semester Marist School students contributed with 216 service hours. All our teachers and volunteers have a positive attitude and are involved with the Centro because they want to help and serve. We are blessed to have them all.

Centro Hispano Marista Graduating StudentExams and Results
In-house exams for our Pre-GED level classes were very successful this fall as well as last spring. A total of 165 Pre-GED students took these tests.
We were able to identify 15 students who could be ready to take the GED. "Ready" means they could skip the GED level of Language Arts or Mathematical Reasoning and proceed with taking the test! The rest of these Pre-GED students will be moving up to GED Language Arts or Math advanced courses in the 2017 spring semester.

The students are more comfortable about sharing the scores of the tests that they pass, but also the ones that they fail. This helps us to direct them to the right class or tutorial best suited for them. The GED Ready is a test that will indicate the likelihood of whether or not a student will pass a particular GED subject.

In summary, out of the 344 students who have taken the GED Ready tests since September 2016, 302 or 88.3% have tested as ready or close to being ready to take the official GED test for a particular subject. The GED tests are the official exam that counts towards obtaining the GED certificate. These tests are taken at an official GED site. Each student needs to pass the four GED subjects to finish. Out of the 381 official GED subject tests that our students have taken since September, 267 passed: a net 70% passing rate. These percentages are very encouraging considering that the fall semester was shorter than usual.

Such success is indicative of the dedication of
both the teachers and students in our program.

Finances
Thanks to the support of the Society of Mary, our main supporter, as well other private donors, we have been able to keep our program effective and growing.
We will continue to seek the support of individuals, organizations and corporations to meet our financial obligations so that our program can continue to grow and be successful. We hope to count on your continued support that is instrumental in helping our students to reach their educational goals.

Impact
We continue to believe that the Centro Hispano Marista will make a difference in hundreds of lives. Each student has an inspiring story. I would like to share one story that reflects the change we are making in the lives of these young adults.

Ms. Sandra Ferreras, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, was so happy she had finished her last exam that she had a big surprise for us on the first day of classes in September. She arrived with a radiant smile as she proudly held her official transcript and diploma. She found me solving a last minute problem: we were missing a few Spanish Language Arts teachers. Some had emergencies; others were ill. We had found willing subs to cover the classes except for one class. I asked her to cover the class and she did! I still believe she was sent to us by Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Centro Hispano Marista Graduate with her FamilyI introduced her to the class and invited her to share her experiences, especially those that helped her to graduate. When she began to teach, I saw how comfortable she was explaining the structure of an essay. This was something that we had worked together on during one of the Saturday tutorials back in February. Not only did she help us, she also found a new passion and a new goal! Armed with her GED and her new confidence, she obtained certification in early childhood education. She also became an assistant teacher in that same Spanish Language Arts class.

Ms. Ferreras has been "responsible" for passing or graduating at least seven other students, including her niece (shown also dressed in blue in the picture below). She encourages every student to conquer their fear of failing and to work towards their goal. It is delightful to see her inspiring other students. While she finishes her studies during this semester, she also will be helping the Centro as an assistant teacher. In addition to this, she is also taking English proficiency classes. I am confident that one day she will teach her own class and even fulfill her dream of working in a daycare center.

Once again, we are overjoyed by each of our student's and teacher's successes. We wholeheartedly thank you for your support that enables us to keep our program operational. We pledge to keep working hard so that our students can achieve their dream of earning a GED diploma that, in turn, will open the doors to a better future.

Read more about Centro Hispano Marista and how you can help>

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