Westfield resident wins Robert Guiffreda Memorial scholarship

Submitted Photo Westfield resident and 2018 Robert Guiffreda Memorial Scholarship winner Tyler Muka, 28, is flanked by Adult Literacy instructor Ellen Foegen, left, and Program Operations Specialist Josh Tedone outside the Community Adult Learning Center.

DUNKIRK – Adult learners come from all walks of life, and the Workforce Development Division’s 2018 Robert Guiffreda Memorial Scholarship winner is no exception.

Westfield resident Tyler Muka, 28, was home-schooled most of his childhood and works as a certified riding instructor with Centaur Stride Inc., a therapeutic horse-riding facility that aims to provide an inclusive environment of recreational enrichment for people with and without disabilities. Muka began at Centaur Stride as a volunteer in 2005 at age 14 and worked his way up to Certified Instructor through Certified Horseman’s Association.

“He has been a blessing to Centaur Stride in so many ways,” said Claudie Moore, president of Centaur Stride Inc. “He is kind, compassionate and gentle, and everyone loves him. He is reliable and responsible. We actually don’t know how we are going to get along without him, but, we are so happy for his success and wish him the very best. He truly deserves to follow his dreams.”

Muka has been giving Robert Mercuiro’s disabled daughter riding lessons twice per week for more than a year.

“Not only is he a skilled instructor, he has great patience, tolerance, and compassion. He also has a great sense of humor,” said Mercurio. “He makes the lessons fun, not like work at all. We all love him.”

While he enjoys his job, for many years Muka mulled furthering his education. A quote from March 14, 2014, on his Facebook page stands out: “The head is for thinking not just carrying a brain.” But actions speak louder than words, and he wasn’t motivated to pursue enrollment until a prompt from a loved one.

His girlfriend Cheyenne White, 27, is a Fredonia resident who was studying Small Animal Science with E2CCB when she saw a flier about the Workforce Development division and shared it with Tyler last year. At her urging, and with her support, he decided to explore enrollment with a goal of passing the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (formerly known as the GED).

In September 2017, Muka began working with Adult Literacy instructor Ellen Foegen at the Community Adult Learning Center, 21 E. 2nd St., Dunkirk, and quickly fell into a rhythm.

“I had been planning on going back to school for some time. There were a few different options for classes,” said Muka. “This one fit the best for me because it was easy to sign up for, it was free and had small class sizes.”

In four short months, he took and passed the high school equivalency exam, which is available at multiple locations in the region in computer- and paper-based formats. His efforts garnered him the Guiffreda accolade plus $500.

“It was easy to enroll and there were multiple class times that fit into my work schedule,” said Muka. “The instructors were always willing to give one-on-one help.” He especially enjoyed using the technology E2CCB has available and being able to work at his own pace.

As for his professional future, Muka isn’t sure what he’ll pursue next, although he’s thinking of enrolling in a training program. And he does have some advice for others considering furthering their education and taking the TASC.

“Don’t put it off,” said Muka. “Take your studying seriously but don’t overly stress over the test.”

E2CCB’s Community Adult Learning Center offers High School Equivalency preparation (TASC) classes, English as a Second Language classes, and a Home-Study/distance learning program called Giving Rural Adults a Study Program (GRASP) to qualified students.