State Rep. Kevin Honan (right, photo 1) attended the Allston-Brighton Legislators’ Breakfast honoring nine area residents, including Pei Kuang (in yellow). City Councilor Mark Ciommo (seated left, photo 2) and State Sen. Sal DiDomenico also spoke at the event, which was held at the Charlesview Community Center. The center’s computer lab (photo 3) is where area residents learn basic computer skills.

Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

Finding their voices

4 min read

Community outreach and praise dominate annual Allston-Brighton Legislators’ Breakfast

“Adult education has improved our lives,” said Waleska DeSouza as she stood before a crowd at the Charlesview Community Center in Allston-Brighton. “We can look for jobs, express our feelings and our thoughts, because we speak English now. Last week, a woman asked me for information, simple information on how to take the bus. But I could help her. It felt amazing, and I am so grateful.”

DeSouza was addressing an audience of area residents, community-based organizations, elected officials, and leaders of the Harvard community during the annual Allston-Brighton Legislators’ Breakfast on May 2.

DeSouza and her husband, Valdez, were recognized for their work in the Gardner Pilot Academy’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program. The after-school program enabled the DeSouzas to improve their English at the same school their children attended.

But it was the spirit of community outreach that dominated the breakfast, where nine area residents were honored by the Allston-Brighton Adult Education Coalition.  Seven of the honorees recently completed adult education programs offered at various organizations throughout the community. The other two were honored for their longtime service to local residents.

Calling the Harvard Allston Workforce Collaborative “one of the best organizations I’ve ever worked with,” Sister Pat Andrews, director of The Literacy Connection with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston, said it was that spirit of community that made the partnership both powerful and unique.

“It’s neighborhood people in agencies that don’t compete, but work together,” she said. “All of us have our own programs, but every one of us knows that we can do more when we work together. These are my friends, and I love them.”

The Literacy Connection, the Gardner Pilot Academy, the Jackson Mann Community Center, the Charlesview Community Center, and many other organizations that make up the Allston-Brighton Adult Education Coalition share expertise and curriculum, and present and market their services across the area.

“I am proud of the students who shared their stories about learning from these adult-education community programs and have become U.S. citizens or who now have a high school diploma or who have made so much progress in learning English and computer skills,” said Carol Kolenik, director of the Harvard Allston Workforce Collaborative. “It’s wonderful to have the legislators here recognizing the students’ achievements and the great work the Allston-Brighton Adult Education Programs do to continuously provide instruction and support the residents of these two great neighborhoods.”

The awards ceremony attracted more than 45 community members, including State Sen. Sal DiDomenico, State Rep. Kevin Honan, and City Councilor Mark Ciommo.

In addition to Waleska and Valdez DeSouza, the following individuals were honored.

Luz Marina Carmona has been enrolled in both the morning and evening sessions of the free computer classes run by Harvard University at the Charlesview Community Center since fall 2013.

Sreymom Thou finished English classes at the Jackson Mann Community Center and continued in the center’s Adult Basic Education (ABE) classes, eventually earning her diploma.

Pei Kuang has been in the Jackson Mann Community Center program for three years and recently completed the ESOL, ABE, and GED programs. She now helps tutor other GED students in math two evenings a week.

Terezinha Queiroga and Gilberto Queiroga both recently obtained their U.S. citizenship with help from the Literacy Connection’s Sister Andrews.

Francisca Guevara from the Joseph M. Smith Community Health Center was recognized with a Community Partner Award. She has held free health and wellness classes at various schools and centers throughout the community. Guevara has been instrumental in starting programs from nutrition classes to Zumba classes to health fairs.

Alice Mills, a volunteer for many years at the Honan-Allston Branch Library, received a posthumous Community Partner Award. She died in March at 95 years old.