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Friday, June 15, 2012

Speak up! Be heard and be recognized


Monday, June 11, 2012: “Be recognized” 

I attended the Women In Need (WIN) volunteer recognition reception at Baruch College. As a New York Cares and WIN volunteer, I felt honored to be in attendance. As I walked in, I was greeted by WIN members, as well as my team leader. A photographer approached us asking to take our picture. I love being photographed so I smiled at the opportunity. For a brief moment I felt like a celebrity. Inside the auditorium, there was a power point presentation. As each speaker spoke, slides of pictures displayed all the work volunteers have and continue to do at WIN. My team lead gave a speech about her work with WIN and the success stories she’s received from clients. She also gave thanks to the volunteers she's met along the way. As she said, “And some of them are in attendance here tonight, Dara,” I waved feeling proud of the recognition, and the pictures we (my team leader and another volunteer) took two weeks ago. Although I’m a newbie with WIN, I admire the great work they do for families in need. I look forward to be more active in this effort and make a difference.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012: “Be heard”


A friend of mine called me “Detective Dara” on Facebook. I really liked this comment because lately I’ve been feeling like one. Inspiration really goes a long way. I attended a MTA public hearing regarding a free Metrocard proposal for paratransit riders. This is my second story writing about the MTA, but my first covering their public hearing. Riders expressed concern to MTA board members about the lack of accessibility in train stations, the insensitivity received from bus drivers, and unreliable express buses in parts of Brooklyn. Testimony was open to anyone who wanted to speak. As I jotted down notes from each testimony, I felt sadness for these riders, agreeing with many of their concerns. It wasn’t too long ago I was one of them. The MTA is proposing a free Metrocard to riders who use Access-a-Ride which would allow them to take the subway, for free, at fixed routes. Although many who spoke said the idea was “Okay,” many felt the bigger issue is having all subway stations and buses accessible for wheelchair bound, visually and hearing impaired riders, as well as disabled elders. This proposal is planned to be implemented by next year. My hope is their concerns are heard, and their needs met.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012: “Speak up!”


Today at City Hall, a rally was held in support of restoring adult literacy funding. As an ESL teacher, this is not only an important issue but a personal one. This was the first rally I attended where I was with no students or fellow teachers from my previous agency. I was there to show support and cover a story. Since becoming a writer for Examiner.com, it has been my mission to bring adult literacy and ESL to the media forefront. This is an issue that tends to be forgotten about. Now is the time to speak up and let our voices be heard. Seven thousand students will lose the chance to take ESL, GED, and basic adult education classes because of pending budget cuts. It’s a fight that we in adult education face each year. I was happy to see the huge turnout. Many Council members spoke showing support, as well as students and teachers.
I interviewed a student from a non-profit agency who expressed anger towards her GED program being cut. A coordinator from another agency told me he had to lay off all his administrative staff, and his ESL program discontinued. I met policy analyst Kevin Douglas from United Neighborhood Houses, and interviewed him about his involvement in adult literacy advocacy. The crowd stretched down Broadway, our chants of “Education is our right” were loud, and banners reading “Restore Adult Literacy Funding” were waved in unison. Live music was also performed. During the rally, it started to rain but we didn’t care. The rain didn’t dampen our mood, it increased it. The message was clear, save adult literacy programs, restore adult literacy funding.

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