Fodé Mara, a student in the adult English as a Second Language (ESL) program at TST BOCES was recently honored with a Student of the Year award by the New York Association of Continuing and Community Education (NYACCE).
A banquet and award ceremony was held to recognize Mara and 19 other recipients on October 17, 2017 in the State Capitol Building in Albany. The award recognizes the accomplishments of students in adult and continuing education programs across New York State.
Mara was born in Ouré-Kaba, Guinea and when he first became a part of the TST BOCES ESL program at age 31 he spoke Ourienne, French, Pulaar, Fulacunda, Malinké, Susu, Manya, Bambara and Creole, but not English. As a recent immigrant in Ithaca, New York, Mara arrived with no high school diploma, no job and limited English skills.
“He started in a beginning-level ESL class and his teachers immediately warmed to his open, can-do attitude toward life and learning,” said Julia Coulombe, TST BOCES ESL Coordinator. “Within months he was speaking intermediate-level English and looking for opportunities to volunteer and work in the community.”
Facing many hardships growing up, Mara lived a displaced life, including six months living on the street and selling firewood to buy food. Nevertheless, he remained resolute in his pursuit of a high school diploma.
Mara is currently in Maryland studying for the GED. He plans to attend college to major in computer technology.