Park stage is a big moment for newest grads
The Comprehensive Community Action Program (CCAP) celebrated a class of 320 graduates on Thursday evening at the Park Theatre. Hosting its ninth annual graduating class, the non-profit handed out high school diplomas to graduates of its Learn to Earn GED program. Hosting students from across the state in skills centers located in Cranston, Warwick, Pawtucket and Providence, the program is open to students ages 14-24, providing educational, workforce training and job placement support.
The Cranston Skills center had 83 graduates take to the stage in the cap and gown ceremony that had the Park packed from stage to balcony with grads, friends and relatives.
“It is a pleasure to be here on behalf of the city of Warwick to congratulate 118 in attendance of the 320 graduates of the CCAP program this year,” said Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian. “Three hundred and twenty graduates is the normal size of a high school graduating class, so it is almost like Warwick and Cranston picked up another high school with this program. That is incredibly exciting, because when we started with this program, we worried about whether we would be able to convince people to come and take a second chance.”
The mayor spoke to the students about their future and the importance of taking the first step in building their futures.
“My message to you, all of you graduates, today is one of simple gratitude. We are really, really grateful to you to allow us to be part of what is a second chance and a new beginning for each and every one of you. On behalf of the city of Warwick, I congratulate all of you and wish you all the best.”
Carlos Lopez spoke on behalf of Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, who sent a message from Mobile, Ala., where he was attending the National Federation of Young Republicans conference.
“First and foremost, I want to say on behalf of Mayor Allan Fung and the city of Cranston, I want to congratulate all of you for this great accomplishment. You all deserve a round of applause as well as your family and friends for supporting you in your journey to obtain your diplomas today,” said Lopez. “Without friends and family, we really don’t have anyone else in our lives to thank but them. As you sit here today, think about everything you’ve gone through to get here – everything that you’ve accomplished to get your degree. Think about the future. Think about where you want to go next, who has been there with you and who will be there with you. The people here with you tonight are your foundation, your rock and your support system to help you get to that next level.”
Lopez told the students to look to the future.
“On behalf of Mayor Fung, I want to tell you how proud we are of you, how proud we are of your accomplishments and wish you the best of luck in the future in all of your endeavors.”
Christian Vargas, one of two student speakers, first enrolled at CCAP in February of 2013. Vargas was in need of a job and without his high school diploma. He wanted to provide for himself and his wife.
“When I was asked to speak on behalf of the graduating class, I did not anticipate how I would feel. As one of the student speakers, I hope I may speak for all of us when I say this is a day we have all been looking forward to. Today is more than just a day of congratulations but a celebration for the beginning of a brighter future,” he said.
Vargas’ enrollment at CCAP led him to an internship at General Dynamics, Electric Boat at Quonset Point.
“As I stand here today, I have an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment, which I’m sure many of you feel as well,” he said. “Graduating with my GED was a goal I had for life as well as for my family. I realized that high school was not for me, but I knew I had to find a program that would help me to graduate and achieve my dreams of being successful.”
He is now a full-time employee at Electric Boat and employed as a nuclear submarine electrician. Amidst much applause, Vargas said that working on a submarine every day is “pretty cool.”
Vargas said he learned a lot about himself and became a responsible young man due to the program. He encouraged his fellow students to continue their journey, noting that he will be taking classes at the Community College of Rhode Island in the fall.
CCAP recently placed seven students in internships at Electric Boat, five young men and two women, all who upon completion received permanent jobs at the North Kingstown facility.
Alexis Spencer, who attended the Warwick program, also addressed the class of 2013 as a CCAP student.
“Today marks a turning point in my life, a place I thought I never thought I would be. You see, at 16 I was pregnant. I had my daughter at 17 and was a single parent,” she said.
Living at home with her mother, Spencer felt she couldn’t complete high school. She tried the CCAP program and found it more suitable than high school.
With her daughter serving as her motivation for completing the program, Spencer worked at her own pace. CCAP assisted her with job placement and set her up with a paid internship with Dr. Daycare in West Warwick. Spencer plans to attend college, starting with obtaining her CNA and then moving into an RN program. She is also considering a teaching career.
“I have always wanted to be a nurse,” she said. “With my daughter, family and friends by my side, I have grown so much and accomplished so much. I want my daughter to be proud of her mother and know that all the steps I take in my life in the long haul will benefit my life as well as hers.”
Gary Littlefield and the Learn to Earn program are fabulous,” said Linda Reilly, director of development and public relations at CCAP.
“I can’t say enough about what he does for these children. They learn workforce skills, too. They learn to interview, deal with people, shake hands and even make eye contact. They learn everything.”
The following individuals from Warwick graduated from the Comprehensive Community Action Program’s GED program last week: