By Sadef Ali Kully
It took almost a dozen years, but the Friends of Rochdale Library Adult Learning Center was able to see its hard work come to fruition Sept. 25, the opening day of the renovated and extended Rochdale Village Queens Library Adult Learning Center at 137th Avenue.
The $5.18-million renovation and expansion included revamping the original adult center—from a few cubicles to an expanded room with additional desks and computers along with a group study room, which overlooks a small outdoor reading garden.
The 1,700-square-foot expansion will serve the neighborhood with expanded computer services, programs for all ages, after-school study hours, story reading and community events.
“This really was a labor-of-love effort. The tutors are the heart of this program,” Bridget Carey-Quinn, Queens Library’s interim president and CEO, said.
Friends of the Rochdale Village Adult Learning Center began in 2002 to help adults from all backgrounds in the community. As the number of program attendees grew, tutors and volunteers reached out to elected borough officials to help fund the much-needed space.
“They called me every day and it was the right thing to do,” said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), chairman of the Council’s Committee of Cultural Affairs. “They were compelled to do something. People are changing their lives for the better—amazing acts of grace happen here every single day.”
Last year, the program served about 360 adults in the community. It also serves as a multilingual information resource and referral center, and provides immigrant families with a wide array of instructional, vocational, recreational, family support and social services.
“It was a long, hard fight, but we made it,” said Christine Hughes, one of the founding members of Friends of the Rochdale Village Adult Learning Center.
Hughes said elected officials state Assemblywoman Vivian Cooke (D-Jamaica), Council members Van Bramer and Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica), state Sen. James Sanders (D-South Ozone Park) and Borough President Melinda Katz were critical in gaining support and funding for the new addition to the Rochdale Village Library.
“We wanted to create an environment conducive to learning,” David Prendergast from the Manhattan-based Prendergast Laurel Architects firm said about the center’s design.
Services at the adult learning center include adult basic education, pre-high school equivalency instruction, English as a second language programs and citizenship classes. In addition, job preparation workshops, small literacy groups, computer-assisted instruction, monthly cultural workshops, independent learning materials, and an extensive book and multimedia collections are available.
“I learned English in four months—my husband brought me here,” said Joyce Oleyweke, who came from West Africa, a largely French-speaking region. “They taught me to recognize money such as a dime is small in size but costs more than a nickel. It made everything easy for me. I am grateful.”
Elected officials, the city’s Department of Design and Construction and community members joined in the ribbon-cutting ceremony to the new adult learning center.
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull