Delaware County Literacy Council Celebrates GED Grads and Other High-Achieving Adult Students

Students pose with elected officials

DCLC Press Release
October 6, 2022

Adults who earned their GED with Delaware County Literacy Council (DCLC) in 2020, 2021, or 2022 were honored at a special Student Recognition Ceremony at the Delaware County Intermediate Unit on September 26, 2022. The ceremony also recognized DCLC students who became U.S. citizens, who completed Home Health Aide training, and who won essay contests.

Students with achievements in 2020 and 2021 were honored because DCLC was not able to hold in-person celebrations during those years.

Nicole Zampitella of Clifton Heights, Larissa Reason of Marcus Hook, and Adrian Buffalo of Lansdowne celebrate at the Student Recognition Ceremony held by Delaware County Literacy Council (DCLC). They were three of the eleven adults who earned their GED with DCLC in the 2020 to 2022 program years.

Melis May Sagay, who recently became a U.S. citizen, was the student speaker for the event. She told the guests “I immigrated to America in 2016. I was a green card winner. My son was 2 years old, I was 39, my husband was 40. We spent more than half of our lives in another country. I made a choice; it was not easy; it still is not. But I have never regretted making this choice.” She went on to explain, “America gave us hope that we can do anything, it supported us. …This change made me stronger.”

Kate McGeever, Executive Director of the Delaware County Workforce Development Board, delivered the keynote address, which focused on gratitude. She offered thanks to the children and other loved ones who supported the adult student in their life. She also showered gratitude on the adult students themselves, saying, “I am going to thank you for that first day you walked through those doors at the Literacy Council and said out loud ‘I have a goal’…and for all of the hours that followed.”

Pat Gunnin, Executive Director of DCLC, acknowledged the students’ dedication—even through the pandemic—by declaring, “You can’t stop a dream!” and encouraged students to make their latest accomplishment a first step, telling them, “Don’t stop here!”

Jenn Kacimi, DCLC Director of Curriculum and Instruction, wrapped up the proceedings by telling the adult students, “I am honored to have been part of your journey with Delaware County Literacy Council. Your achievements and perseverance are an inspiration to us all!

Several elected officials representing Delaware County or their staff members attended the celebration, including PA Senator John Kane, Sarah McCullough of PA Senator Tim Kearney’s office, Dana Carter of PA Senator Anthony Williams’ office, PA Representative Gina Curry, and PA Representative Mike Zabel.

Students pose with elected officials
Elected officials representing Delaware County congratulated adult students who were honored at the Student Recognition Ceremony held by Delaware County Literacy Council. (DCLC). Shown left to right are PA Representative Mike Zabel; PA Senator John Kane; DCLC Student Melis May Sagay of Drexel Hill, who earned her U.S. citizenship and won the Sun East “People Helping People” essay contest; Most Bilkis Sultana of Upper Darby, who was honored for her Anti-Racism essay; Dulce Zelaya of Upper Darby, who completed Home Health Aide training; Sonia Bermeo-Talbot of Norwood, who completed Home Health Aide training; and PA Representative Gina Curry.

Delaware County Literacy Council (DCLC) provides free literacy services to local adults, including online and in-person classes in basic adult literacy, ESL, GED preparation, and digital skills, as well as career services that help people obtain full-time work. To learn more or to get involved, visit

Delaware County Literacy CouncilReceives Generous DCIGRA Grant to Promote Services

Group of people and oversized check

DCLC Press Release
September 28, 2022

Delaware County Literacy Council (DCLC) received a generous grant from the Delaware County Interactive Gaming Revenue Authority (DCIGRA) to help promote its free programs and services.

A check representing the $25,000.00 grant was presented to DCLC Executive Director Pat Gunnin and members of DCLC’s board of directors and staff on Thursday, September 22, 2022.

DCIGRA Board Chair Paul K. Johnson said the grant would help DCLC with “local marketing efforts to promote literacy services and resources.”

DCLC Executive Director Pat Gunnin expressed gratitude for the generous grant, saying, “This will really help us reach every corner of Delaware County so that adults needing our services will learn about us and get the help they need.”

Delaware County Literacy Council (DCLC) provides free literacy services to local adults, including online and in-person classes in basic adult literacy, ESL, GED preparation, and digital skills, as well as career services that help people obtain full-time work. To learn more or to get involved, visit

Caption for photo: Paul K. Johnson, Board Chair of the Delaware County Interactive Gaming Revenue Authority (DCIGRA) [back row, fifth from left], and Stefan Roots, DCIGRA Board Member (back row, fourth from left), present Delaware County Literacy Council (DCLC) staff and board members with a symbolic check representing the recent $25,000.00 grant to help DCLC promote its free services and programs within the community. Shown in photo, front row, left to right: DCLC Staff Members Jennifer LaPorte, Marvis Daniel, Wazhma Pal, Kiera Morales, and Elaine Herbert; back row, left to right: DCLC Board Member Peter Matthews, DCLC Staff Member Deb Charley, DCLC Board Member Rick Durante, DCIGRA Board Member Stefan Roots, DCIGRA Board Chair Paul K. Johnson, DCLC Executive Director Pat Gunnin, DCLC Board Member Nichole Kistler, and DCLC Staff Member Chandra Waters.

Immigrant Who Helps Immigrants Wins Essay Contest

DCLC Press Release
July 1, 2022

“I became an immigrant at the age of 40,” explains Melis May Sagay in her winning “People Helping People” essay. She adds, “Many people like me are not ready to become immigrants. That’s why I decided to help them.”

Student with award
DCLC student Melis May Sagay of Drexel Hill won $200 in Sun East Federal Credit Union’s “People Helping People” essay contest.

Melis created an informal network of friends and social media contacts to offer advice and household goods to newly arriving immigrants. As an English as a Second Language (ESL) student at Delaware County Literacy Council, Melis had the opportunity to write about her efforts in an essay for the “People Helping People” contest, sponsored by Sun East Federal Credit Union.

The “People Helping People” contest asks students to write about volunteering and its impact on their life. Sun East Federal Credit Union provides a generous $200 prize to the writer of the winning essay.

In her essay, Melis describes her goal of helping new immigrants “transition from country to country.” Because immigrants often arrive with only a few suitcases, they may need many household items to begin their new life. Providing child car seats, child beds, toys, and clothes can smooth their path. Melis knew she had limited resources to help on her own, so she thought that others might want to be involved. “I was not in a position to help more than one person by myself. But I had a good circle of friends and organizational skills. I encouraged my friends to help.”

Melis’s immigrant network was born. She makes sure that all donated items are in good condition. “There have been some who donated unacceptably old items. Most of the immigrants receiving help were educated, respected in their country, and none of them were poor. They were just immigrants,” states Melis.

One person who hailed from Melis’s home country of Turkey needed help finding housing in the Philadelphia area during the pandemic. Melis wrote to the person and provided advice about locating an apartment, even meeting with the person to show them around.

Describing the impact of helping others, Melis puts it this way, “If the toy I give to an immigrant child makes him happy, if an immigrant woman cooks in the pot I gave her family, then I have achieved my goal. Sharing goodness will save the world.”

Delaware County Literacy Council (DCLC) provides free literacy services to local adults, including online and in-person classes in basic literacy, ESL, and GED preparation. To learn more or to get involved, visit

Literacy Council’s New Flags Highlight Free Services

Press Release of March 18, 2022

Delaware County Literacy Council (DCLC) recently added some new flags to its front lawn on Providence Avenue in Chester to spread the word about the free services they offer to local adults.

As broadcast by these colorful banners, DCLC’s website——is the best place learn about the many free classes and the employment help offered by the Literacy Council. Many of DCLC’s classes have moved online since the pandemic, and the DCLC building is open by appointment only, so the website is an important hub of information about DCLC’s offerings.

Delaware County Literacy Council (DCLC) is putting its message of free classes and employment services for adults on display for all to see with a set of new feather banners on their front lawn in Chester. To learn more about DCLC’s free programs, visit

For example, Adults can take free classes in GED preparation, basic literacy, and English as a Second Language (ESL), or work with a volunteer tutor in those areas. Remote and in-person options are available. Interested adults can enroll for an upcoming session by filling out an interest form at

Another option for adult learners is a free civics-focused ESL class that covers a variety of civics topics, including citizenship, government, geography, taxes, healthcare, and more, with opportunities for students to accelerate quickly and move into free Home Health Aide (HHA) training or GED classes. Immigrants interested in the program can complete an interest form at

DCLC also offers free job-search help to immigrants and mature workers in conjunction with the Delaware County Workforce Investment Board.

The Back to Work program provides free job-search help to Delaware County residents age 40 and over who have received Unemployment Compensation in the last year and who are looking for full-time work. Employment Coach Elaine Herbert guides participants through all steps of the job search, helping them find jobs that match their skills. Interested mature job-seekers can fill out an interest form at

The Immigrant Employment program offers free job-search help to immigrants living in Delaware County. DCLC employment coaches can help local immigrants look for jobs, complete applications, create a resume, prepare for interviews, and more. Some translation services are available. Interested immigrants can complete an interest form at

DCLC is also a great place to volunteer! Community members interested in helping a Delaware County neighbor improve his or her literacy skills, in either basic literacy or ESL, can learn about becoming a volunteer tutor at and complete an application at

Take a tip from the flags waving on DCLC’s lawn: Learn about DCLC’s free programs and opportunities by visiting

DCLC Profile: DaVeda Graham Brings Focus on Community & Learning to DCLC Board

DaVeda Graham, DCLC Board Member

by Sally Sapega

DaVeda Graham, a nurse practitioner who lives in Drexel Hill, recently joined the Board of Directors of Delaware County Literacy Council (DCLC). DaVeda brings a wealth of experience in healthcare and community-building to the role.

DaVeda explains why serving on DCLC’s Board seemed like a good fit: “I’m big on educating, especially in health literacy. If you’re not literate, it’s difficult to advocate for yourself or be involved with your care. DCLC is about empowerment and helping people change their lives for a better future.”

DaVeda adds, “Also, when my mom was younger, she worked at LaSalle University, running the GED programs. And I want to help further that.”

DaVeda has been a nurse for thirteen years and a nurse practitioner for the last six years. She calls nursing “a fortunate detour” in her life.

“I went to Philadelphia High School for girls and wanted to become a doctor, but I became a mom early. Twenty five years ago it was hard to be empowered when you were a single mom. Looking back, though, this turned out to be a fortunate detour for me. Nursing still kept me in the sciences and allowed me to help patients. This was exactly the path I needed to take.”

As a nurse practitioner, with formal training in primary care and public health, DaVeda is passionate about providing care for underserved populations and bridging gaps found in today’s healthcare environment.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, she saw these gaps both in Philadelphia and Delaware County. As a result of her experiences, DaVeda started Nurses United for Change and Equity, a nonprofit that focuses on disparities in healthcare, with an initial emphasis on providing COVID-19 vaccines to those in Delaware County who may not have had easy access to them.

Her first step was to get authorization as a COVID-19 vaccination provider. Next, she organized vaccination clinics at a variety of locations, including a firehouse in Drexel Hill, the Folcroft municipal building, nursing homes, and Chester High School’s football and basketball games. She is excited at the prospect of seeing her nonprofit grow and expand its reach.

DaVeda is also excited about being involved with DCLC and its mission of helping adults develop reading, writing, math and English language skills to thrive in the workplace and the community. “I have so many ideas!” says DaVeda. “I thought about having career days, showing people how to dress, how to get their resumes prepared. We could do mock interviews and talk to them about how to communicate effectively. It’s a life skill that will stay with them for the course of their careers. I’d like to become a mentor to people who have similar backgrounds to me, give them encouragement and help them get through barriers that I didn’t know about when I was younger.”

Clearly, DaVeda Graham has the drive, the empathy, and the skills to have a big impact on DCLC and its students. We welcome her to DCLC’s Board of Directors.

You also may be interested in these stories from February/March 2022 DCLC News & Notes.

DCLC Offers Free Employment Services and Digital Literacy to Community Members
Trauma-Informed Practices Help Adult Learners Succeed

Trauma-Informed Practices Help Adult Learners Succeed

According to a recent World Education blog post, “Perhaps now more than ever, adult educators are paying attention to the impact that personal and community trauma has on adult learners’ ability to learn and pursue their goals.”

COVID-19 was a collective trauma we all experienced in the last two years—a trauma felt even more acutely by adult literacy students. As the blog post states, “Those most affected by the devastation of the pandemic are disproportionately people of color and immigrants, especially those who are women. When these adults are our students, using trauma-informed practices will increase their opportunities to learn and pursue their education and career goals. Using trauma-informed practices is an integral part of enacting our values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Case Manager Wazhma Pal helps DCLC students overcome barriers to learning, which sometimes involves guiding them to resources that can address the traumas they have experienced.

“Attending classes online, managing work and family at the same time can be a real challenge for adult students,” says Wazhma. “Sometimes they struggle to find housing, which is definitely traumatic. For immigrant students, there is the trauma of adjusting to a new country with minimal to no language skills. As the DCLC case manager, I help students connect with organizations that provide services they need. Acknowledging the difficulties in a student’s life also helps them take steps to get help and recognize their own strength.”

With the help of DCLC’s Case Manager Wazhma Pal, DCLC provides literacy instruction that welcomes adult students as individuals who bring their own experiences and challenges to their studies.

You also may be interested in these stories from February/March 2022 DCLC News & Notes.

DCLC Profile: DaVeda Graham Brings Focus on Community Learning to DCLC Board
DCLC Offers Free Employment Services and Digital Literacy to Community Members

Adult Students See Lesson on Perseverance in Sidney Poitier’s Life

Black and white photo of Sidney Poitier


Adult learners in Amy Rosenberg’s Adult Basic Education class read an article about Sidney Poitier’s accomplishments as an actor and activist, but they were most intrigued and inspired by Poitier’s rocky start to his acting career.

According to the article (; must register for a free account to access the article), Poitier was thrown out of his first audition.

“[Poitier] was told to read one of the parts. However, with little formal education, he read haltingly and still had a thick West Indian accent.

“Frederick O’Neal, one of the founders of the theater, came up onstage and physically marched Poitier to the door. He angrily told Poitier to stop wasting people’s time. O’Neal added, ‘Why don’t you get yourself a job as a dishwasher or something?’”

Poitier improved his English by listening to the radio and reading newspapers. He auditioned again and was hired on a trial basis. He persevered through other setbacks to become an Oscar-winning actor.

DCLC student Prince (students are identified by first names only) was the first to be inspired by the article. He made the following statement, and his classmates chimed in.


Never give up on your dream. Never give up. Sidney Poitier was thrown out of his audition, but he came back. Always be consistent in whatever you do. Keep focus and keep pressing on. God has something special for you. He will never take your mail to the wrong address. Don’t let difficulties keep you down. Whatever work you put in is what you get out. Nothing good comes easily. Just be consistent and prayerful and see the end result that everything is going to fall into the right place at the right time. When the time comes, nothing can stop you. Continue being you and keep focus. Pay attention to the signs. Do not be afraid to fail. Every time you fail, you are in the process toward your destiny. The more you fail, the closer you get. Always believe in yourself.


Just pass the first step. Never give up. Never stop trying and believing. Your day will come.


Dreams do come true.


Nothing can stop you. Sidney Poitier broke down on-screen color barriers and reached stardom.


Sidney Poitier dropped out of school at age 13. Other people may say, “You won’t do it.” If you listen, you might lose control, but if you focus and stay with it, you can get to where you want to be. Some people give you encouragement and others discourage you. Don’t listen to the discouragers. Don’t look back. Just look forward, and you will get there.


The first step is the hardest step. Never stop. Your day will come. Thank you for inspiring me. I will endure to get where I want to be. If he can do it, so can I. You have to go through something to be something. I am embarking on new things. The way you come in to DCLC is not the way you leave. You must have vision.


You can’t give up on anything.


As long as you believe that you can do it, you can set your mind to any goal.


There is nothing impossible to they who will try. Be who you are and say what you feel. Poitier was born an actor. He pursued his studies. Sometimes you don’t know what your calling is at first. He found his calling and didn’t give up. Don’t give up. One day you will make it.


Whatever you have been through, others have gone before you. Everybody has had struggles and hardships in life. They went through it firsthand. I can relate to what they went through. Different day, same problem. People can stand in your way and not have faith in you and reject you. Some people are still prejudiced with the mindset from the past. Sidney Poitier said that he was privileged to stand on the shoulders of the African American actors that went before him to see where he might go. I started out wanting to stay in school to help others who need help. I can’t hesitate. Motivation is the key. We went through so many struggles, day in and day out. At DCLC, I am at ease and relaxed, content with where I am today, working to achieve my goals and dreams.

We at DCLC are inspired by the preseverance and determination shown by these adult learners, as they work toward their goals and dreams!

Image courtesy of