High school for adults celebrates new LIC digs

Administrators showcase the ceremonial scissors used in the ribbon-cutting celebration. Photo by Bill Parry
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A school with an adult student body celebrated its new home with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Long Island City Monday.

City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) spoke to a standing room-only crowd of students and educators at the Queens Adult Learning Center, at 27-35 Jackson Ave., a state-of-the-art facility they can call their own.

“My goodness, we were in a leased space a couple of blocks away,” Principal Yvonne Neal said. “The rooms weren’t designed for learning — it was for office space. This was designed just for us.”

The nearly 60-year-old school serves more than 5,000 students annually in 123 tuition-free classes in high school equivalency, citizenship and naturalization, basic education and other programs that prepare adults and immigrants for today’s job market.

“Now we have proper facilities with modern technology that include Smartboards, laptop and desktop centers with high-speed Internet — it’s a dramatic upgrade,” said Neal. “It’s the defining moment of our long history. This is going to be like no other school.”

Gwendolina Dendy-Wnek, a 28-year-old student from Greenpoint, Brooklyn, appeared in a testimonial video and later spoke about her experience at the Queens Adult Learning Center.

“I’ve got my B.A. in education, but what I was lacking was computer skills that you need to compete in today’s world,” she said.

The student body is comprised of people from 141 nations, according to Neal.

“At first I was intimidated. There are so many different races and so many different reasons for being here,” Dendy-Wnek said. “I’ve never seen a set of people like this. The best thing of all is we all help each other.”

Walcott pointed out that he was an adult learner when he sought his master’s degree at Fordham University.

“When I walked into this place, I thought, ‘Wow, this place is amazing,’” Walcott said. “It’s about you having an environment for you to learn and better your life.”

Van Bramer added that the new center creates a dignity of place.

“If it looks good and valued, it signals dignity,” he said. “You know that what happens here has great importance.”

Dr. Dorita Gibson, deputy chancellor at the city Department of Education, drew some of the largest applause when she said, “Even the bathrooms are nice!”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Posted 12:00 am, November 22, 2013
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