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Evenstart honors first graduates

By JON WILSON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 23, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG -- A family literacy program new to Midtown honored 76 men and women Friday, applauding their determination to rise from difficult circumstances.

The occasion, which featured pastry, drinks and enthusiastic speeches, recognized the progress students have made toward winning GED certification, a step toward career training.

As honorees were introduced, cheering and applause rocked the NAACP headquarters at 1501 16th St. S, where the party was held. The headquarters doubles as home base for the Midtown Technology Center, which conducts training leading to jobs.

"I felt like we were at the academy awards," said George Cretekos, aide to U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young. Susan McGinn, aide to U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, was present along with some city officials and School Board members.

Evenstart, the literacy program, opened last fall at Midtown Technology with six pupils, said program supervisor Dallas Jackson. It since has served 150 people, he said.

Almost all are from low-income families who dropped out of school. Some have been in jail. All have struggled to read and write effectively.

"This shows people can turn it around, most definitely," said Brenda Conyers, the center's recruiter and GED assistant.

The center, which also offers computer classes, has room for more students. It is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 4-6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. Call 896-8024 for information.

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