Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cohort 8

This past Thursday night I attended the Ennis William Cosby graduate certificate ceremony at Fordham University for cohort 8 in the "Young Readers at Risk" program. The 24 scholarship recipients were recognized for "demonstrating proficiency in providing beginning reading instruction and a sense of social justice and the belief that all children can learn to read".

The Hello Friend/Ennis William Cosby Foundation was established by Bill and Camille Cosby to continue their son Ennis' dream "to help children find the self-esteem, support and learning techniques that would open the doors of accomplishment and joy to them" (taken from Ennis' Gift: A film about learning differences).

Ennis, who was dyslexic, was dedicated to helping children who struggle to read and write and the Hello Friend/Ennis William Cosby Foundation has ensured that his dream continues.

So far, there have been 234 New York City public school teachers who have graduated from this 18 credit program. They have touched the lives of 25,000 children.

I was fortunate enough to have been accepted to Cohort 3 and I can honestly state that this program has not only changed my way of teaching but also my life. It directly influenced my decision to pursue my doctoral studies and opened the door for me to become an adjunct instructor at Fordham University.

It was a night of celebration and reflection. It was also a night mixed with bittersweet emotions because, as of this writing, the foundation has decided not to continue the program when the current cohort (Cohort 9) graduates next January. This means that there will not be a Cohort 10 - at least not this summer. I remain hopeful that when funding is available in the future (or my pleas to Oprah are heard) that the program will pick up again where it left off.

Difficult economic times are hitting us in unforeseen ways.

However, for the moment we celebrate the teachers who make a difference.

We give thanks to the Hello Friend/Ennis William Cosby Foundation and to the Cosby family.

I give my personal thanks to Dr. Joanna Uhry, director of the program at Fordham University (pictured with me during the tutoring practicum) who has done so much for me. Her belief in my abilities and her kindness, both professionally and personally, has been inspirational, motivating and heart warming. But, more on that in future posts...

Congratulations to Cohort 8!

Top picture: Julie Shoemaker at podium. Seated: (left to right) Dr. Joanna Uhry, Cayne Letizia, Gary Wellbrock, Erika Cosby, Erinn Cosby.


Lynda said...

Great to see Dr. Uhry's picture since you speak of her often. I hope that Oprah comes through for you and your colleagues.

lettuce said...

thats too bad about the programme being cut


wonderful that they are being awarded for their belief in the children and their sense of social justice, as well as proficiency as instructors

Barbara said...

It's unfortunate that a lot of worthwhile programs are taking a hit with the depressed economy. I hope funding can be found to continue such a worthwhile program. Meanwhile people like you can be ambassadors! When will you complete your doctorate?

Joy Keaton said...

You know, Oprah being so big on the reading and all... this foundation really is a natural for her. I'm actually surprised she hasn't had a hand in it already. Oprah can you hear me? ;)

Gary said...

Lynda - Where have you been?

Letty - It is not good news about the program (or programme, btw I LOVE the English spelling of so many words. Would it be rather much for this NYC boy to adopt them?) but I remain hopeful that it'll find some other way(s) to continue to touch the lives of struggling readers.

Barbara - I think I must be the most relaxed student because I am not exactly sure how long I have before completing all of my research. I am shooting for 2011 but that is flexible. I am in no rush to finish and want to make sure that I continue to enjoy the journey. I don't care much about the end product except that it'll be cool to have the Dr. before my name. But really, how often does that come up? But, my research is really interesting (at least to me and Joy),

And speaking of Joy...I'm thinking that when O gets wind of this she'll do what she can. I would be surprised, given that Bill Cosby is a celebrity and an advocate for education, if she is not already familiar with the Hello Friend Foundation. BTW - nice new pic!

Arielle Lee Bair said...

I'm sorry such great programs are taking a hit. I know what that's like and it's unfair and sad. I'm glad you had a great night. It's amazing what you do, Gary. I'm always in awe when I read your blog.

Anonymous said...

Gary, found ur site by accident..its so great!!! Im a single father to a 3 year old and this is right up my the art work!! U seem like a great me

Reya Mellicker said...

So you were honored, too, yes?

You are such a doll, btw.

This year is bound to be chaotic, with everyone rethinking what our economy is about/should be about. I believe that programs like Cohort will find funding again in the future. Onwards & upwards and much love.

And congrats!!

Gary said...

Arielle - Thanks for the support. It was a nice evening and who knows, other things can sprout from this that are just as important. We'll see.

John - I love the artwork too and am so glad that blogger has a way to show more than just one of their pictures at a time (like I did before I discovered this feature). Send along some of Fen's work and I'll add it to the collection.

Reya - I was not honored per se but a few people did mention me in their speeches and when Cayne and I got up to speak after Dr. Uhry introduced us as the 'dynamic duo' we did get a healthy round of applause.

WAT said...

Ironically, I was just reading about Ennis' tragic death! Man, a real shame, but I'm glad that something like this has been around in his memory.

Sadly, these are economic times unlike any we've ever seen/lived, as evidenced by the cutting of funding from this cool program you speak of...

I hope a celebrity does step up to the plate.

presious said...


Is it possible that Bill Cosby himself can help save the program? He is an extremely strong advocate of education and he absolutely loves children. Hmmmm....Is there something I don't know?


Mom said...

BOY, ARE YOU HANDSOME! So proud of you! Love ya,MOM xxx ooo

Gary said...

Ma - You make me smile. That is such a perfect Mom comment and since I look like you one might say 'right back at ya'.

Presious - Bill Cosby and the Cosby Family have already raised an enormous amount of money for the foundation during the past 9 years. There were several fund raisers early on but nothing that I know of since my cohort, which was 6 years ago. My feeling is that there needs to be some publicity and fund raising activities to help build more captial. I am not privvy to the details of the decision to cease the program so I am just speculating.

Wat - I think I would have liked to have known Ennis. We hold the tutoring at the school that he student taught in which seems appropriate. His death was a horrible loss but the family honored him with the Hello Friend Foundation by allowing his dream to continue.


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