The Charlestown Resource Center runs numerous programs on a shoestring budget and in a constant fight for funding and space, but the successes coming out of their small office on Monument Street – held together with the energetic glue of Director Lori D’Alleva – are not short on potential for those who have overcome incredible obstacles.
Whether it’s a computer program for adults, English classes for recent immigrants, or adult Hi-Set (formerly GED) classes to get a long-sought-after diploma – the Resource Center finds a way to push, and sometimes pull, its clients towards success.
Nowhere was that more apparent than at a very special graduation ceremony at the NewTowne Community Room last Friday, May 31, for a dozen or so adults who had achieved their diploma after any number of setbacks and challenges in life.
Naidaliz Arias shared that she became a teen mother at age 16, and had to drop out of high school at the time. She had always planned to come back to finish school, but found it difficult when her child had intellectual disabilities.
“I always wanted to come back, but it was hard as a single-mother to a child with intellectual disabilities,” she said, stopping to wipe away the tears. “I dropped out of school because he had constant health issues, appointments and surgeries. I did this for him and for myself to prove I could do it. I wanted to show I couldn’t be stopped. I’m now going to be attending Bunker Hill Community College next year. This is the first step today to move on and achieve the success I’ve wanted for such a long time.”
With not a dry eye in the room, D’Alleva shared that while many in the community might think that Hi-Set is the easy way out, she implored that it isn’t an easy path.
“Everything that comes in the way of focusing on academics happens as an adult,” she said. “This is a much more difficult route. There are many who may say this is the easy route, but the graduates here are showing that it isn’t. This route is very difficult and should be applauded.”
Kelsey Paquin said coming back to get her diploma was a hard choice to carry through on, particularly with so many demands from her family. Now, however, she said she was only looking forward to the future after years of wishing she could finish.
“Many of us dropped out for many different reasons,” she said. “For me, I got pregnant and was raising my six-month-old sister. Life him me hard. I didn’t get my diploma. I always said ‘later,’ but that time never came. One day I woke up and realized it was now or never. I worked so hard. I’m looking forward to the future and I’m so proud of all the graduates. We did it and it’s just upward from here.”
D’Alleva said they are a program that is funded by a number of different sources, but they are able to cobble together funding to create a great outcome for so many Charlestown residents. With the help of the Boston Housing Authority, they have expanded their classroom space in recent years, and the faculty for the various programs is experienced in teaching adults and newcomers.
But it is D’Alleva in the end that gets a lot of the credit from so many that pass through the doors of the upstairs offices at 76 Monument St.
That includes former graduate Audrey Kelly, who dropped out of school in the 8th grade and graduated from the Resource Center after many years in 2018.
Now in her second year at Bunker Hill Community College, she said she has found a new life because of the Center and D’Alleva.
“She cares,” said Kelly in an interview with the Patriot Bridge. “I was on my own since I was 16…Lori would never let me change my mind about coming back. She was always on it. Nobody ever cared whether or not I went to school. Now I’m the only one out of all my family to go to college. That’s exciting. I feel accomplishment. I never thought I’d be in this position. I’m so proud and my kids are proud of me too. My son now asks me every day what I learned in college.”