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Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania will celebrate the accomplishments of 49 individuals at a combined graduation ceremony beginning at 6:30pm on Thursday, April 28, at its Workforce Development Center (WDC) in Lawrenceville. Wearing caps and gowns and marching to “Pomp and Circumstance” before an audience of family, friends, staff and guests, 35 graduates of the GED® preparation and testing program conducted by the Goodwill Literacy Initiative (GLI), nine graduates of the Goodwill Employment Training Center (GETC) and five new U.S. citizens will be honored.
Speaking on behalf of the graduating class will be Gerel Onkorova. Ms. Onkorova was a political asylee from Russia, where she left a dangerous situation in 2009. At Goodwill, she attended almost 800 hours of ESL classes over five years to improve her English skills and knowledge of U.S. culture. Ms. Onkorova received her green card/permanent residency early in 2015, which made her eligible for employment in the US. During her classes, Ms. Onkorova also recognized that a GED® would be a stepping stone to a better job and an American college education, and therefore attended over 70 hours of GED® classes with native English speakers at Goodwill. She began taking the GED® test in December of 2015 and by March 2016, Ms. Onkorova passed all sections.
Also speaking on behalf of the graduation class will be Nathan Lott. Mr. Lott enrolled in the Goodwill Employment Training Center’s Administrative Office Skills program because he needed to improve the quality of his life. He had a high school diploma and some college, but had very limited previous work experience and was unemployed when he enrolled. Mr. Lott demonstrated great tenacity working with GETC staff, while helping other classmates, enabling him to graduate with a 4.0 grade point average. Mr. Lott now plans to return to college and has been accepted at the University of Pittsburgh and Chatham University.
Jay Poliziani will be this year’s Keynote Speaker. Mr. Poliziani is the director of Northside Common Ministries, an affiliate of Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania. He moved into this role in 2011 after nearly two decades of service in a variety of social service roles at Goodwill. Mr. Polizani has a master's degree in marketing and communications, as well as a master's in theology, and will share his experiences and advice with the graduates.
The GLI offers computer-based GED® testing and free classes covering skills needed to pass the GED® tests and to help people transition into jobs or post-secondary education. All candidates for the GED® credential are welcome to take the test on computer at the Goodwill WDC testing center regardless of whether they have taken the preparation classes through Goodwill. The Citizenship program offered by the GLI assists students preparing for the U.S. naturalization test. The GETC is Goodwill’s nationally-accredited, state-approved, private-licensed school. The GETC offers diploma programs in administrative office skills and health care office skills.
“We are extremely proud of all of our graduates,” said Judy Martier, Director of Education, Assessment and Training. “They all have faced various adversities in their lives and all of them have worked hard to overcome challenges and achieve their educational goals. They have the determination and confidence to move on to even greater successes.”
Information about GED® testing, the GETC, and all of the education programs offered by Goodwill is available at www.goodwillswpa.org/education.