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Adult education leadership program boosts student confidence

Ashley Hirtzel

Adult education students at the Buffalo Public Schools Career Collegiate Institute are finding success through a Student Ambassador Program. The ambassadors are helping themselves by helping others.

The three student ambassadors from the Career Collegiate Institute or CCI gave a tour of the center located on St. Lawrence Avenue in North Buffalo. It’s where they’ve been working toward their high school equivalency diploma.

The building is equipped with various classrooms where students can work on practice exams. There are also psychologists on hand for personal matters, as well as college and career counselors to help them think beyond the test formerly known as the GED.

Student Mariliz Rodriguez attends CCI regularly to prepare for the high school equivalency test. She says she tried studying in a high school setting, but it wasn’t for her.

“Coming here was more comfortable. It feels more like home, the teachers are really there, and understanding. Just being in a smaller group helped me to focus more,” said Rodriguez.

The Career Collegiate Institute services roughly 400 out-of-school youth ages 17 to 21. The adult education center is connected to various trade schools. It also pairs students with businesses for apprenticeships or internship opportunities. CCI Youth Coordinator Brenda Curlee says the small classroom setting offers students the one-on-one experience they need.

Credit Ashley Hirtzel / WBFO News
Wilfredo Rosario Jr, CCI Youth Coordinator Brenda Curlee (M), Mariliz Rodriguez & Brandon Wilson.

“What makes us successful there is we really care about our students and the students appreciate the fact that we want to support them in whatever endeavor they have. It’s because of that they are successful.” Said Curlee.

Curlee says a few years ago, CCI decided to create the Student Ambassador Program to allow students to play a bigger role in their educational experience. Each Career Collegiate classroom votes for a representative they feel would make the best mentor to those experiencing difficulty with the high school equivalency test. Brandon Wilson is among the three ambassadors chosen this year. He says along with helping his peers the program has given him some needed confidence, as well.

“Being here everybody feels like family. They treat me with respect and I treat them with respect. That’s what I really love about this school, that’s what makes me come here, and makes me push myself even more,” said Wilson.

The representatives also help classmates battling personal issues that may be preventing them from completing the high school equivalency. Student Ambassador Wilfredo Rosario Jr. said his advice to those peers is not to be afraid to ask for help.

“Just because you’ve got this at home, this at home [going on,] doesn’t mean anything. Just come to school and focus on your education, because what your education is going to do is get you to your future goal,” said Rosario.

Rodriguez was also chosen to be a student ambassador this year. She says the program has helped her work better with others.

“Here they have us doing things like announcements. Doing things like that really help me get out of my shy zone, because I am very shy. And that will help me in the future with jobs when talking to other people. I do like that,” said Rodriguez.

Wilson says the program has changed him for the better.

“Being a student ambassador really helped me be a better person, a good leader, and a role model, not just to my relatives, but other people, period,” said Wilson.