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No Raining On This Parade (Er, Party)

A program run by Upper Nyack nun Cecilia Pietra helps Spanish-speaking residents learn English—and celebrates its accomplishments.

A steady downpour couldn't dampen the spirit and the enthusiasm of a dedicated group of Rockland volunteers Sunday.

Despite the inclement weather, Sister Cecilia LaPietra of One to One Learning merely moved the festivities indoors and staged the program's annual "Thank You" picnic at Marydell Faith and Life Center in Upper Nyack.

(Read more about the program, and Sister Cecilia, here).

"After this picnic we had better start praying because we have two big fund-raisers coming up, back to back," LaPietra said as parishioners from St. John the Baptist Church in Piermont cooked up a storm and set up the tables for students and volunteers alike.

"I guess its better we have this weather now," LaPietra added. "The soccer tournament (Sept. 12) must be held outdoors and Star-Fest (Sept. 19) is best held outdoors."

Among the students on hand from One to One Learning—which helps Spanish-speaking people pick up the English language—were Orangeburg's Isaias Lemus and his wife, Marleni.

"She's the lucky one," laughed Isaias, when questioned whether they were married.

Marleni is one example of many how Sr. Celia's program is helping. "I've been coming seven years now," Marleni said.

"Now she's upper level, trying to get her GED," La Pietra added.

"It's a great opportunity, not just for English, but it's a great opportunity to meet people from other countries," Marleni explained. "It's a big plus, hard to express. The teachers see us as people of God and they help us. It's hard to express how good this program is, between the teachers and our angel, Sr. Celia."

Erasmo Maldonado of Nyack, a former student, confirmed that he would be returning to the program.

"I had to stop because of my job, the hours," Maldonado said. "But I'm sure I'm coming back."

LaPietra wanted to emphasize that the volunteers from St. John's made the day possible, offering high praise for Sparkill's Nelson Zamora, president of the Spanish community at the church.

"It takes a lot of people to make something like this work," she said.

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