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Literacy director wins Sloan prize for library work

As many people spoke about Queens Library Adult Literacy Programs Director Susan Dalmas’ myriad accomplishments upon her winning the 2011 Sloan Public Service Award last Thursday, they all had one message: She deserves it.

“She helps people every day achieve dreams that once seemed impossible for them,” said Tom Galante, chief executive officer of Queens Library.

Dalmas, a Filipino immigrant who lives in Forest Hills, is one of the latest to win the prestigious Sloan Public Service Award, which is given to six exceptional members of New York City’s 250,000 civil servants each year. The award is distributed by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a grant-making foundation created by the former chief executive officer of General Motors for whom it is named.

Dalmas is one of three Queens residents to be honored this year. The other two are Queens Village resident Gabriel Taussig, chief of the administrative law division for the city Law Department, and East Elmhurst resident Emmanuel Thingue, senior designer for the city Parks Department’s Brooklyn team. Those who win the award receive a $7,500 prize and a drawing by artist Niculae Asciu.

“It’s great,” Dalmas said during a ceremony at Queens Library, at 37-44 21st St. in Long Island City. “I still can’t believe it. It hasn’t sunk in yet.”

All recipients were honored at both their place of work and a ceremony at Cooper Union in Manhattan, which Mayor Michael Bloomberg attended.

In her 21 years at Queens Library, Dalmas has created numerous classes to help adults and young adults learn to read English, particularly those for whom English is a second language. Dalmas said her training began with her mother in the Philippines, who used to rely on Dalmas for help reading English documents before Dalmas taught her how to read and write in English. For eight years she worked at the Philippine Refugee Processing Center in Bataan, where she taught immigrants who were often not literate in their own language how to read and write in English.

In her job as director of Adult Literacy Programs, Dalmas has not only created a program aimed at a similar group of individuals, but has also established or overseen programs aimed at improving literacy for families, young people and programs to help adults get their GED or become citizens.

“It has been a second chance for me,” said Lena Encisa, who is enrolled in the library’s GED program.

Judy Trupin, assistant program manager for the library’s Adult Learner program, said Dalmas is always coming up with new ideas for library programs and has improved an already great adult literacy program.

“Susan cannot leave well enough alone,” Trupin said. “She has to make it better.”

Dalmas said these programs are important because they bring empowerment to adults and often to their families who they support as well.

“It’s not just helping people learn how to read and write,” Dalmas said. “You help them improve their life.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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Reader Feedback

Vicki Long from Tempe, AZ says:
Congratulations for a job well done! Am really glad to know that a former co-worker at ICMC, PRPC Bataan, Phil. received such a distinguished award. More power to you Susan!
March 20, 2012, 12:17 am

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