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Find the Weeble within, Towns advises downstate program graduates
6/20/11

Find the Weeble within, Congressman Edolphus Towns, who represents New York’s 10th Congressional District, urged the 99 graduates who received masters degrees from Alfred University’s Downstate Programs.

Speaking Saturday at Alfred University’s fourth downstate commencement ceremony, held in the rotunda at Kingsborough Community College, Towns told the graduates to be like Weebles, the popular roly-poly toy first introduced more than 40 years ago by Hasbro.

“When people knock you down, bounce back up,” he said. “When people push you around, jump back up,” he added, telling the graduates to find the “Weeble” in themselves. “Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down,” he said, reciting the advertising slogan for the toy. “Find the Weeble Wobble in you.”

He advised graduates not to “put their degrees on the shelf. Use your knowledge to make this world a better place.”

They will face obstacles, he admitted. “When something is in your way, you are on your way. If you’re not going anywhere, nothing gets in your way.”

The graduates – most of whom hold full-time jobs and are raising families – completed their degrees by attending classes on weekends at Alfred University’s downstate campus. Fifty-eight received Master of Science in Education degrees as counselors, and 41 received Master of Science in Education degrees as literacy teachers.

This is the fourth cohort of students to complete degrees through the Alfred University Downstate Programs, which began six years ago under the auspices of the NYC-based Center for Integrated Teacher Education. This year’s graduates bring to 480 the number of those who have completed their master’s degrees through the downstate program. Students also attend week-long summer session each year at the main campus in Alfred, NY.

The University bestowed the J. Henry Smith Distinguished Public Service Award on Towns for his more than 30 years’ public service. In presenting the award to Towns, President Charles M. Edmondson noted Towns gave up a career in the private health care industry to become first a deputy borough president and then a member of Congress for 30 years.

While there are elected officials who have behaved inappropriately, President Edmondson said there are dozens of others who have served, as Towns has, with distinction for the good of the citizens they represent.

Sheren Attal, speaking on behalf of those who earned their degrees in counseling, said her experience in the Alfred University program “helped me become who I am: determined, self-confident, purposeful and committed.”

Requiring students to spend one week each summer at the campus in Alfred, NY, 300 miles from home, was “pure genius,” Attal said. “We had an amazing experience together. We learned about ourselves and others,” something that will stand them in good stead as school counselors.

The Alfred environment is “filled with laughter and joy,” and she marveled at “professors who sacrificed their weekends with their families to be with us.”

“There are families we are born into, and there are families we choose, our circle of friends,” said Anne McCabe, who spoke on behalf of the literacy graduates. Her classmates in the literacy program became her chosen family, she said. Together they learned not just the fundamentals of how to teach, but “the joy and passion for reading” they, in turn, can pass along to their own students.

The James F. Dougherty Award, created by Dougherty, the president of the Center for Integrated Teacher Education in New York, recognizes students who have not just excelled academically, but who have demonstrated “growth as professionals and individuals,” said Jay Cerio, professor of School Psychology and director of Alfred University’s Downstate Programs.

Shannon Cullen and Lamesha Self received the awards for the counseling graduates, and Clyde R. Walcott received it for the literacy graduates; the faculty selects the recipients.

The internship supervisor of the year award was presented to Jeremiah Corbo, school counselor at Tottenville High School. “Counseling students could not get through the program without a good internship where they can refine their skills and knowledge,” explained Robert Bitting, associate director of the Downstate Programs for AU.

“Supervisors give an invaluable resource – their time – to our students,” noting that because most of the students hold full-time jobs, the internships are often completed on top of their regular work day.

Outstanding students, those who earned a 4.0 or straight “A” grade-point average, included:
Counseling: Rick L. Matera, Catherine Ryu, Janelle M. Todman and Valrie Wauchope.

Literacy: Ysabel Abreu, Donald Bronson, Graceann Cotroneo, Wilhelmina M. deKock-Tuaselo, Florencio Diaz, Christie Fischetti, Anne T. McCabe and Carol M. Melo.