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2nd Annual Breakfast with our Best a HUGE Success!


May 2017
The name Adult Learning Center seems to make clear the mission of the over 40 year old nonprofit organization located in Nashua. But as attendees of last week’s Breakfast with our Best event learned, there is a lot more happening at the ALC than just adult learning. As guests walked into the gymnasium at the Adult Learning Center they expected a typical breakfast fundraiser. Soon after they grabbed a coffee and pastry, they realized there would not be anything typical about what they would hear at the second annual event. All would leave with a clear understanding of the broad scope of the ALC’s mission and how special both the staff who work to fulfill that mission and the clients who benefit from it truly are.
After a brief welcome from Board President Rachel Guill of BAE Systems and emcee of the event Carol Kreick, a longtime supporter of the ALC, attendees were introduced to representatives of Clearway High School, an alternative high school program for teenagers who need a specialized setting to successfully earn a high school diploma or equivalency diploma (HiSET, formerly GED). Special Education Coordinator Aeron Wrobel spoke passionately about why Clearway is such an important offering to Nashua area students. However, it wasn’t until student Hannah Rubin spoke that the audience fully understood Clearway’s impact. “Due to severe anxiety, I could not function in a large high school setting,” Hannah said. “But at Clearway I feel supported and valued and now I am graduating with a diploma and plan to go to college next year.” After she spoke, the hug she shared with her mother punctuated the enormity of the moment. Not only is her daughter graduating, she gained the confidence to deliver a poised, personal speech in front of more than 100 strangers, and she thanked Clearway for helping her reach those goals.

Hannah’s praise of her school and teachers was echoed by Adult Education student Salimatou Bah who has attended both basic education classes as well as the English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at the ALC. Bah came to the United States from Guinea. In Guinea, she never had a chance to go to school. With the support of her husband, she found the ALC when they arrived in Nashua and has been a student ever since. She noted, “Once I landed in New Hampshire I enrolled in the Adult Learning Center and met wonderful people here. They offered me the education I had always hoped for.” Her English has improved and she plans to start classes to earn her HiSET certificate and continue to college.
Another ALC student story highlighted the importance of the relationships which are formed at the ALC. Ellen Arouchon, a tutor in the Adult Learner Services program, introduced the audience to Salwa Sayegh. Salwa came to the United States after the situation in her home country of Syria became increasingly unsettled. Unlike Salimatou, Salwa had been given an educational opportunity at home and was an engineer, but when she came to the United States she learned she would need to start over. She found the ALC and was paired with Arouchon for help with her classes. Arouchon noted, “I could tell right off Salwa was capable of doing the schoolwork. What she needed was someone to talk to.” Three years later the two are still talking, and sharing recipes and holidays together. Salwa called Arounchon her “second mother” and the bond between the two was evident through the tears they both shed in sharing their story.
Children are a big part of the Adult Learning Center story and the attendees of the breakfast were treated to a demonstration of some of the fun the ALC’s smallest clients enjoy on a regular basis. The ALC offers child care to children ages 6 weeks through kindergarten in their Early Childhood Adventures Program. Program director Jane Marquis and her staff demonstrated some techniques they use to manage Big Body Play, showing how they can turn wrestling, tackling and weapon play, all which is developmentally occurring in the preschool years, into safe, active play. The teachers donned super hero capes that they use with their students when they ask them to be a super-friend, super-helper or super-listener instead of more violently mimicking their favorite super heroes.
Christine Bunis, the ALC’s Adventure Camp Director, outlined the amazing summer camp opportunity offered by the ALC. Adventure Camp runs all summer long and gives kids the chance to play sports, swim, attend field trips and participate in learning workshops. The photos of the fun had everyone in the room reminiscing about their summer camp experiences and recognizing the importance of having a safe, fun place to spend the summer.
The highlight of the event may well have been the presentation by Jeremy Griffus, Enrichment Coordinator for the After School Adventures program. Griffus has developed Xploration, a learning enrichment program based on STEM education. Griffus travels to local elementary schools conducting hands on workshops with students. The audience was treated to an amazing laser demonstration which is one part of his program of over twenty different workshops offered to students after school. The laser workshop is available to students due to a generous grant from BAE Systems. The lights dimmed, the music blared and the audience was treated to an amazing display and description of light reflection and refraction. To those in attendance it just looked cool. As the audience reluctantly began to leave the event one attendee commented how he “had no idea the ALC operated on such a broad scale. I thought they just did ESL,” he continued. This was music to Executive Director Carol Baldwin’s ears. “After having Breakfast with our Best: our best staff, students and programs, we hope everyone can see what a special and important place the Adult Learning Center is for the Nashua community.”

 

Former ALC Standout Finds his Niche in Marine Corps

February 2017
To say the Kirkhart family has a strong connection to the Adult Learning Center would be an understatement. After being homeschooled, all seven of the Kirkhart children attended classes at the ALC to earn their high school equivalency certificates. Twenty-three year old David Kirkhart was no exception, earning his HiSET (formerely GED) in the Spring of 2014. But he didn’t stop there. Now he works as a helicopter mechanic in the Marine Corps and credits his time at the Adult Learning Center and the people there with providing him the tools he needed to reach his goals.
It was the fall of 2013 when David Kirkhart came through the doors of the ALC just like his siblings had before him. A family friend, Marie Hendra, has worked at the Adult Learning Center for 15 years and shared with David’s mother that her homeschooled children could prepare for and take the GED test at the ALC. The HiSET is a nine-hour test taken over two days and includes tests in the disciplines of reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. Kirkhart took the preparatory course and met Stephen Reid, a teacher at the ALC, and credits Reid with much of his success. He noted, “Stephen made a huge impact on my education, and I wouldn’t have made it without him, or his patience!”
Reid not only guided him through the HiSET process, but upon David’s graduation in June urged him to take the next step and enroll in the Get Ready for College courses offered by the ALC. Get Ready for College is a free program designed to prepare students for a successful college experience. The 16-week program helps students explore career opportunities, develop study skills, sharpen academic skills, and learn about college admissions and financial aid. It was just what Kirkhart needed to gain the confidence to take classes at the college level. Having never been to a traditional school building, Kirkhart’s time at the ALC eased him into what a classroom setting would be like. While at the ALC, Kirkhart drew the attention of many teachers and staff and was chosen to receive the Carol Kreick Scholarship upon his graduation from Get Ready for College. The scholarship recipient is “an individual who demonstrates diligence, perseverance, consistent work ethics and courage, and has shown personal growth throughout their journey of challenge, change and self-discovery as they complete their academic requirements at the Adult Learning Center.” He used the money to enroll at Nashua Community College and eventually moved on to online classes at Southern New Hampshire University.
While taking these courses Kirkhart realized that a college degree would be necessary to reach the goals he had set for himself. Due to the prohibitive cost of classes, he decided to pursue a path similar to that chosen by his brothers and enlist in the Marine Corps. He knew by doing so he could gain experience and training while working, and upon completion of his duty, take advantage of the generous GI Bill offered to military veterans. Kirkhart graduated from boot camp on June 17th, 2016, and is now stationed on Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) in New River, NC where he works as a hydraulic, systems, and airframe mechanic for the CH-53E Helicopters.
When speaking with Kirkhart, you can hear in his voice how much the Adult Learning Center means to him. When he returns to town later this winter he looks forward to visiting the school and speaking with current students about how important it is to continue their education. Kirkhart’s recent correspondence to a staff member encapsulates everything the ALC teachers and staff hope for our students. He wrote, “attending the Adult Learning Center was no doubt the turning point for my education and future career. Coming from a small educational background, the people at the ALC managed to make learning exciting and fun, and were always attentive to any learning needs I had. They were always encouraging, and always put the students first. They were slow to judge, quick to listen, and loving in everything they did, regardless of any background you came from!”

Celebrating the Holidays at the ALC

December 2016
While holiday cheer is abundant at the Adult Learning Center, the holidays can be a tricky time for our youngest clients. The Early Childhood Adventures Program (ECAP) is home to over 60 children ages 6 weeks to pre-kindergarten. Most come to the ALC Monday through Friday where they take part in a curriculum designed to stimulate their physical, social, emotional and language growth through play. And while you may think the holidays would provide the ultimate play time, the teachers and staff at the ECAP have to be very careful this time of year. The diverse population of the students requires the staff to use thought when celebrating the holiday season.
To begin with, ECAP has a multicultural policy specifically addressing the diversity of the group and how they will approach their students. The policy states, “The Early Childhood Adventures Program is committed to multi cultural education. This means that we share a commitment to human rights, to the dignity of individuals, and to social justice. We strive to create a program that truly reflects the lives of our children, families, staff, and community.” That all comes to the forefront when the holidays arrive. Director of ECAP, Jane Marquis notes that while everyone wants to be decorating, celebrating and spreading cheer, “we typically think about whose needs we are really meeting when we consider our activities this time of year.”
Marquis also uses the guidelines set by the NAEYC, the National Association for the Education of Young Children. In their literature about celebrating the December holidays they state child care facilities should, “help the children explore the similarities and differences among family holiday celebrations, whether it is the same holiday or different holidays. The aim is for children to understand that families are different. Each family’s way of celebrating works for them.” It is important to note that the NAEYC is the group which offers accreditation for child care facilities and the ECAP program at the ALC is fully accredited.
While making sure everyone feels included is important this time of year there is another issue facing the staff of ECAP in December – the excitement issue. As adults sometimes it s difficult to focus when all around you are blinking lights, music and sugary treats. Imagine how hard it would be for a preschooler. Over stimulation can cause students to feel as if they have been thrown out of their normal routine. Marquis and her staff consider this issue before planning parties and crafts that might seem innocuous and fun, but underneath could cause some serious issues for their tiny clients.
And while this all sounds like there is no fun to be had, the opposite is true in ECAP. Marquis has planned an amazing curriculum that gives students a chance to celebrate, learn and grow during this frantic time of year. Preschool and PreK are planning Balsam tree bough painting, making grape vine wreaths to celebrate circles and enhance fine motor skills, and creating pine cone bird feeders made with suet, lard and bird seed. The culminating piece is the placement of 2-3 fir and balsam trees in our greenhouse on Dec. 20th to last for the winter months. Their feeders will hang on these trees and children will spend the winter learning about woodland animals and their need for food in the winter months. Additionally, PreK is exploring a few winter holiday celebrations from around the world. The children have a put up a beautiful bulletin board celebrating Kwanzaa.
There is no shortage of celebration at the Adult Learning Center, but it is tempered and thoughtful. This is just another reason why the Early Childhood Adventures Program remains one of the most respected child care facilities in the city.

 

Chris Williams Op-Ed on the ALC

Click Here to read the article

ALC Hosts Affordable Childcare Roundtable

October 2016
The gym at the ALC served as the perfect setting for the important roundtable discussion taking place. You could see bikes against the walls, balls and toys waiting for the preschoolers in the ALC’s Early Adventures Child Care Program to use on a rainy day. Seated around the table were local child care professionals, State and City government officials and candidates all focused on one topic; affordable child care in our city. The roundtable discussion was coordinated by the NH Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy who work to secure policy that will help New Hampshire families and build stronger communities. Child care is just one focus for the group, but one they feel is instrumental in building a strong and stable economy in New Hampshire. As their website explains, “Skyrocketing prices are putting quality child care out of reach for too many New Hampshire families. As a result, thousands of Granite Staters are forced to choose between staying home to raise their children and joining the workforce or keeping their jobs. Increasing access to affordable and quality child care or early education keeps families working, which helps strengthen our state economy.”
With affordable child care at the center of the discussion, Jessica Sugrue, child care training specialist for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, opened and moderated the event. She quickly turned to the other panelists, including the ALC’s own Jane Marquis, Director of the Early Adventures Program, to share their thoughts with the decision makers in the room. Marquis noted after the event that she felt the roundtable was important and successful because, despite having a room full of people who all believe in the importance of early childhood education, many outside the profession simply “didn’t realize how prohibitive childcare issues are on both families and providers.” She went on to note that many of the candidates in the room asked great questions, which allowed her and the other professionals to present and explain the impact of programs such as Universal Pre-K. Marquis was especially excited to share her thoughts on Universal Pre-K with Nashua Mayor James Donchess, who attended the event. It is her hope the Nashua School District will embrace the idea in the near future.
The statistics are staggering and must feel overwhelming to young families trying to build a future. Key statistics can be found on the Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy’s website (http://www.familyfriendlyeconomy.org/) and highlight some of these important facts; “In 2014, Congress reauthorized the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which aims to ensure the quality, health and safety of children in child care while making it easier for families in need to get and keep child care assistance, however, the law comes with no guarantee of federal funds or state compliance. From 2006 to 2013 alone, approximately 2,100 children in New Hampshire lost child care assistance and roughly 10% of children were cared for by unlicensed child care providers.” These trends are troubling. While the problem wasn’t solved in the gym that morning, events like this increase awareness and allow experts to share ideas and craft solutions that can make a difference. The employees at the Adult Learning Center are proud to be leaders in the conversation about how to make positive change around this very important subject.

Nashua Senior Shares Time with ALC Children

April, 2016

Eighty-three year old Stella Bilodeau gets up at 5am four days a week and takes the 6:50am bus from her home in Nashua to the Adult Learning Center. She has done this regularly for the past eleven years. When she walks into the ALC she goes from being Stella Bilodeau to “Nana Stella,” the foster grandparent in the preschool room of the Early Childhood Adventures Program. Her typical day at the ALC starts at 7:15AM and lasts until 11:15AM and she says she loves every minute of it. Judging from the smiles on the faces of the three year olds she encounters each day, they love it too.
Nana Stella came to the ALC through the Friends Program in Concord, NH. The Friends Program describes itself as “a non-profit agency that recruits, trains and manages volunteers.” Their mission is to “strengthen communities by building relationships that empower people, encourage community service and restore faith in the human spirit.” They do this by “providing youth mentoring, emergency housing and fulfilling the needs of seniors and retired people to actively contribute to the community.” Stella has been contributing by nurturing children at the ALC each morning. Her activities include helping with breakfast, playing with the children and, her favorite activity, sitting on her special rocking chair and reading to the children each day.
Stella realizes most people her age are not interested in getting up and going to “work” each day. A sedentary life, however, is not for her. “You have to have something to do, something to get up for each day,” she says. She attributes the children and staff at the ALC for keeping her young. “The teachers here are so good to me. They treat me like I am one of them. I love being around young people.” The teachers in classroom feel equally lucky to have the extra hands as program director Jane Marquis notes, “Volunteers like Nana Stella are vital to an organization like the ALC. We are so blessed to have her.”
Stella recently celebrated her eighty-third birthday and shows no signs of slowing down. After leaving the ALC each day, she meets a group of friends at Denny’s to socialize and then walks home, often not getting home before four in the afternoon. Her days are filled and she likes it that way. When she isn’t at the ALC or with her friends, you can bet she is focused on her beloved New England Patriots. Nana Stella is fulfilled and happy.
When asked specifically about her role as foster grandma, her eyes light up. She has seen hundreds of children pass through her classroom, but admits, “there is always one special one,” a child in each class who she seems to connect with who searches her out with a book looking for some alone time. “There was one boy named Caleb,” she remembers. “He was very special.” He has long since left the ALC, but she quickly turns to another little boy pulling at her pant leg and helps him wash his hands before breakfast. There always seems to be enough of Nana Stella to go around, and the children at the Adult Learning Center are lucky to have her in their lives.

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Copy of Reed-Blumenthal Dear Colleague Letter

March 17, 2016

The Honorable Roy Blunt / The Honorable Patty Murray
Chairman / Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Subcommittee on Labor, Health and
Human Services, and Education Human Services, and Education
Senate Committee on Appropriations Senate Committee on Appropriations
Washington, D.C. 20510 Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray:

As your Subcommittee considers the Fiscal Year 2017 Appropriations bill for the Department of Education, we urge you to adequately fund the Adult Education State Grant Program. Building on the increase in funding for Fiscal Year 2016, we ask that you continue to take steps to move the funding level closer to the authorized level of $635 million included in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2014.

Adult education programs are a crucial component of ensuring our economic competitiveness. More and more, middle-class and family-sustaining jobs require education beyond high school. Yet, according to U.S. Census data, 14 percent of adults over the age of 25 have less than a high school diploma. The Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) reported that an estimated 36 million adults in the U.S. have low skills –nearly one in six have low literacy skills and one in three have low numeracy skills. Furthermore, U.S. adults today perform at the same or lower levels than they did in the 1990s. These basic skills are not only related to economic and employment outcomes, they are also correlated to better health and social well-being.

There has been a long-standing underinvestment in adult education, with severe consequences. Adult education programs struggle to meet the demand for services. There are waiting lists in virtually every state. At current funding levels, the system serves only 60 percent of the number served in 2001 and only five percent of the eligible students nationwide. Spending on federal adult education has declined by 25 percent in real terms since 2002. If we are to remain globally competitive, we must invest in our adult education system.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act made important changes to the adult education programs, ensuring that adult education programs are aligned with job training and postsecondary education, supporting the professional development of adult educators, offering technical assistance for adult education providers, and strengthening the research and evaluation of best practices in adult education.

A meaningful funding increase would help leverage needed resources for adult learners. We urge you to work towards increasing funding to the authorized level of $635 million for Fiscal Year 2017 for the Adult Education State Grant Program.

Thank you for your consideration of this important request.

Former ALC Student Making Her Mark in College, and in our After School Program

According to the website wiseGEEK.org, the phrase you reap what you sow has one main principle. “The general idea behind you reap what you sow is that actions will have consequences. The effects of a person’s behaviors are not necessarily apparent right away, such as when a farmer has to wait a while for a crop to mature. Nevertheless, they show up eventually.” Here at the Adult Learning Center we are often reminded of this lesson. Frequently, our employees come straight from the ranks of our former students. Such is the case with Jacqui Capobianco, an associate in the School Age Adventures after school program. Jacqui works at the Litchfield elementary school where she participated in the after school program years ago. Now a junior at Southern NH University (SNHU) she is being recognized for some groundbreaking research and will be presenting her work at both an undergraduate research conference at SNHU and in North Carolina at a national conference where she will present her work on robot therapy and how it helps children with autism.
An education major at SNHU, Jacqui is currently enrolled in a course called Inquiry Scholars. As part of the course she did research concerning how SNHU prepares its elementary education majors to teach math in elementary schools. The other, which will bring her to the national conference in North Carolina, concerns the effect of perceived moods on robot-assisted therapy. Her professor, Lundy Lewis, has worked with a student in Nashua who has autism. Jacqui says, “He has brought in the NAO robot that is programmed to ask the student to complete simple tasks, such as finding an object of a specific color. These sessions have been videotaped, and I am going over these videos to see the number of times this student responds without prompting by the Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP).”
Jacqui plans to continue her education and get a Masters in school counseling, that way she can combine her love for psychology with her love for working with children. In the meantime, here at the ALC we get the benefit of her passion and expertise while she works with our students every day after school. As an associate, her typical day includes helping the children with homework, playing games indoors and out, and mediating the occasional argument between students. When asked how her schoolwork and research has helped her in her work at the ALC she noted that she sees firsthand how important teachers are in a student’s life. Jacqui is grateful for the flexibility she has at the ALC and feels lucky her managers support her in her schoolwork and research, allowing her the time off needed to attend the conference in April. “It is very difficult to find a job that supports your career and education, and the Adult Learning Center does an amazing job doing so.”
At the ALC we are proud of Jacqui and the many others like her on our staff. We feel blessed that former students so often come back and we hope to keep reaping what we have sown for years to come.

October 4, 2015: “ALC Welcomes STEM Enthusiast” – Nashua Telegraph

July 8, 2014: “Shaheen in Nashua to discuss legislation to expand tax credits for child care” – Nashua Telegraph

 

June 30, 2014: “New director takes over at Nashua Adult Learning Center” – Nashua Telegraph

 

June 20, 2014:  “Adult Learning Center graduates show resilience” –  Nashua Telegraph

 

June 7, 2014:  “Nashua Adult Learning Center chief retiring after 27 years at helm” – Nashua Telegraph


This Is How We Roll

Recently the Family Connections group from the Early Childhood Adventures program laced up their bowling shoes for a night out in lieu of their regular monthly meeting. What transpired was pure fun and quality family time for nearly 80 children and parents.
The Family Connections program is a family support group. Parents and guardians of children in the Early Childhood Adventures program attend monthly group meetings with their children, ages newborn through grade school. According to Benjamin Garber, Ph.D who has been facilitating the group for over twelve years, “childcare and supper are provided, giving many of the adult participants a rare opportunity to talk about the stresses in their lives and to improve their parenting skills from professionals and peers alike without concern for interruptions.”
While the meetings are often lively, once a year the group gets together to have some extra fun. The popular annual bowling event at the Leda Lanes Glow Bowling facility is attended by nearly the entire child care program. Program director Jane Marquis noted that “our families really enjoy this event and we use bumpers so we are all really good bowlers that night.”

The evening is free of charge for our families thanks to a partnership with the Front Door Agency. The Front Door Agency’s transitional housing families join in the fun as they are collaborative partners for the Family Connections group. The Front Door provides the ALC with a stipend for each participating family in Family Connections.

This year marked the 7th time the event has been held and if the laughter and smiles were any indication, it will continue to be a favorite outing for our families for a long time.

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Welcome Home

Adult Learning Center student Mate Bampakariyo says the best part of being in his new home is “paying his mortgage.” This is an interesting response, and one you might not typically receive from most people living in the United States. Mate, however, is different. He arrived in the U.S. with his family in 2007 after living in a refugee camp in Tanzania for many years. After living in subsidized housing and waiting for what at times felt like forever, Mate and his family moved to their new home in Nashua with the help of Habitat for Humanity. Mate looks forward to paying his mortgage because he recognizes that once it is paid off, he will be the owner of the house. This is something he never dreamed would be a possibility for him.
When Mate arrived from Tanzania he was connected with the Adult Learning Center by the International Institute. He came to the ALC to learn to speak English and to study to pass the HiSET (formerly GED). He participated in numerous classes including English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and the Bridges program. The Bridges program prepares students for higher education by helping to enhance their academic abilities and polish communication and pronunciation skills. As Mate became more comfortable with the English language, he became more successful. He and his wife worked two and three jobs and soon looked for ways out of subsidized housing.

Enter Habitat for Humanity. Through the Main Street Methodist Church, Mate learned of the Habitat for Humanity Program. Habitat for Humanity builds homes for people who otherwise cannot afford them. Part of Habitat’s model is that the family participates in the building process and provide sweat equity. Potential homeowners take part in workshops, construction, fundraising and other activities which earn them equity toward their new home. Once they have concluded their allotted hours, and the house is completed, the keys are handed over to the new homeowners. For Mate, this happened just a few weeks ago and he couldn’t be happier.
Mate realizes his time at the Adult Learning Center was instrumental in his immersion into the Nashua community and connecting him with Habitat and other agencies. He does not intend to stop learning at the ALC. His hope is to soon pass the HiSET and continue his studies in college. “I still need the ALC’s support so I can get there.” he says.

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Meet Jeremy Griffus

ALC Welcomes STEM Enthusiast to the School Age Adventures Program

Nashua, NH September 2015

The new school year brings with it some exciting changes to the School Age Adventures Program at the Adult learning Center. The after school care program has always offered enrichment opportunities for the hundreds of elementary students served in Nashua, Hudson, Litchfield, Merrimack and Hollis. This year is no exception as Jeremy Griffus will serve as the new Activities and Enrichment Coordinator for the program and will focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities and lessons.

Griffus, who started working at the ALC as a teenager in Hudson at the H.O. Smith School, wasn’t always so “STEM” focused. He began his education hoping to work as a park ranger, combining his love for the outdoors with his interest in criminal justice. However, his ongoing part-time work for the ALC through the years taught him that his passion for science and his love of working with children was ultimately the right path for him. “This is my dream job,” Griffus said, while sitting in his small office at the ALC. The office is merely a place to store his “stuff” as he plans to spend most of his time in the field conducting STEM experiments and various activities at the 25 different schools which house the School Age Adventures Program.

The idea for the position came from both Griffus and the School Age Adventures Program director, Lois Parsons.  Parsons regularly explores ways to improve the highly successful and popular program and approached Griffus, who often gave demonstrations at the after school sites and during vacation camps, to see if he would be interested in joining the organization.   After seeing him work with our students during one of his workshops, Executive Director Carol Baldwin was thrilled with the idea.  “With so much attention being given to STEM education in our schools, it seemed a natural fit to invite Jeremy to bring his skills to our program full time,” said Baldwin. While his efforts for the near future will be focused largely on the 25 elementary and middle after school care programs the ALC currently provides, there is no telling how the position may grow. Griffus hopes to eventually offer STEM enrichment activities during the school day to teachers who otherwise don’t have the resources or time to prepare multiple, hands-on experiments with their students.

Regardless of how the position develops for Griffus, he is right where he wants to be and says,  “Nothing makes me happier than to see a kid’s face light up when they problem solve during one of the activities. These are not just lessons about science. This is how we learn to handle all kinds of problems in life. If the first thing you try doesn’t work, keep trying. There is no better lesson that that.”

Clearway High School Holds Graduation

Fourteen students honored at evening event

Nashaua, NH June, 2015

 

Pomp and Circumstance played and anxious students adjusted their always challenging graduation caps. Family and friends took pictures and video and teachers beamed with pride as the class of 2015 processed into the gymnasium. It looked and sounded like the thousands of high school graduations happening across the country this June. But there was something different about this group of graduates. These were the fourteen members of Clearway High School’s graduating class who reached this milestone, as class speaker Christina MacKenzie said, by “staying true to themselves.”

Clearway High School was established by the Adult Learning Center in 1977 as an alternative high school program for teenagers who need a specialized setting to successfully earn a high school diploma or equivalency diploma (HiSET, formerly GED). Clearway’s mission is to educate teenagers to function effectively as adults. This is accomplished by helping them improve their academic and work skills, decision-making skills and daily life skills. School director Marianne Wiley welcomed the graduates and noted theyall came to Clearway because, for one reason or another, the traditional public school setting was not working for them. They found success at Clearway and, as Wiley shared special memories of each of the fourteen graduates, it was clear why. Clearway offers an emotionally supportive educational environment that encourages students to discover success in a range of ways.

In her speech, MacKenzie reminded the class that their “non-traditional” high school experience was special and outlined what worked for her. After starting in a traditional public school setting MacKenzie found her way to Clearway where they offered her what she called a “fresh start.   In crediting the staff at Clearway, she said, “My teachers propelled me forward.” Her teachers described her as a “model student with an infectious smile and positive attitude in class which set a good example for her classmates.”   MacKenzie’s future studies will focus on Science with a minor in Paramedic Emergency Medicine and will be aided by a $2000 scholarship she received from the Adult Learning Center’s Carol Kreick Literacy Scholarship program.

The event concluded with traditional hugs and tears, flowers and refreshments, but even the casual observer could see that these graduates knew they had done something special. They had beaten what seemed like insurmountable odds to reach this important milestone. They have shown the world they are ready for what is next, as highlighted by MacKenzie’s final words to her classmates, “We did it, but we did it our way.”

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Press Release

Adult Learning Center Awards Rev. James Chaloner “Champion of Literacy Award”

Four students receive post-secondary scholarship funds.

 

Nashua, NH, May 2015:

The Adult Learning Center recently held the third annual Carol Kreick Literacy Award and Scholarship event at the Nashua Country Club. This year the ALC, along with lead sponsor The United Way of Greater Nashua, honored Reverend James Chaloner of the First Church as a champion of literacy and community activist.   The event also served as a ceremony for the awarding of four scholarships to current and former ALC students.

 

With nearly 100 people in attendance, ALC Executive Director Carol Baldwin outlined the genesis of the award saying, “recognizing that education is the key to economic independence, the Adult Learning Center created a scholarship fund in 2013 to allow one of its graduates to pursue a post-secondary education.” The Carol Kreick Literacy Award and Scholarship fund was established by Carol Kreick, long-time Nashua resident, educator and guidance counselor. Kreick has been active with the Adult Learning Center since 1987 and currently sits on the Board of Directors’ Development Committee. The Carol Kreick “Celebrate Literacy” Award and Scholarship is presented annually to a community member recognized as a champion for the cause of literacy and an Adult Learning Center student is presented a scholarship award that allows them to take the next step on their road to self-sufficiency through education. Chaloner joins past award recipients Kreick and former ALC Executive Director, Mary Jordan.

 

Reverend Chaloner is a Nashua native. He graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in history in 1970. He earned a M.Div. degree from Bangor Theological Seminary in 1979 and was ordained in that same year. He was called to First Church as Associate Minister in 1979 and as the church’s 22nd Senior Minister in 1984.

 

United Way president Paul Hebert outlined why Rev. Chaloner was such a natural pick for the award, commenting that “Rev. Jim was a member of the Board of Directors of the Adult Learning Center for six years prior to joining the Board of Directors of United Way of Greater Nashua where he has served since 1999, twice as Chairman. He was instrumental in the formation of the Anne-Marie House and was one of the founders of the Front Door Agency. In addition, he helped establish the original Home Health & Hospice Care and was a major fundraiser for the Community Hospice House. In 2012 he was the recipient of the Max I. Silber Community Service Award.” Rev. Chaloner humbly accepted the award noting that the recognition was more about bringing attention to the work of the ALC and not about the individual.

 

Following the award presentation, Carol Kreick presented two current ALC students with $2000.00 scholarships. David Kirkhart, a student in the Adult Basic Education program, completed both the HiSET (formerly GED) program and Get Ready for College programs at the ALC. He plans to continue his education at NCC before entering the Marine Corps. Christina MacKenzie is a student at Clearway High School, an alternative high school program for teenagers who need a specialized setting to successfully earn a high school diploma. Christina will graduate this year and plans to continue her studies focusing on Science with a minor in Paramedic Emergency Medicine. Kreick also presented additional $1500.00 awards to former scholarship recipients Kayla MacDonald and Cameron Doucette who continue to succeed in their post-secondary education. MacDonald completed two years at NCC (criminal justice program) and will continue a 3rd college year majoring in Business at NCC. Doucette has completed his first of two years at NCC, majoring in Technology Networking and is working full time. They received their first scholarships in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

 

 

 

greenhouse ribbon cutting

Press Release

Adult Learning Opens “Children’s Greenhouse”

Mayor Attends Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Nashua, NH, April, 2015:

 

It took over a year of planning and plenty of teamwork, but on a recent spring evening a dream came true as the Early Childhood Adventures Program (ECAP) opened its Children’s Greenhouse at the Adult Learning Center (ALC) in Nashua.  A large group of adults and children gathered and watched as Mayor Donnalee Lozeau, and numerous mini-gardeners, cut the ribbon on the new structure in the play yard of the 4 Lake Street building.  The children escorted their parents, guardians and others through the greenhouse showing off the vegetables they had started from seed in their classrooms and explaining how the small plants would soon be part of their lunch and snack menu at school.

Having a greenhouse on campus was the dream of the ECAP director, Jane Marquis, who approached then ALC executive director Mary Jordan with her idea.  After Jordan procured a sizeable grant from Oracle, Marquis and current executive director, Carol Baldwin, went into high gear to get the necessary permits and site work done so the greenhouse could be ready for the spring planting.  During their comments at the brief ceremony both Marquis and Baldwin were quick to mention the many organizations such as Oracle and Siciliano Landscaping who came together to help make the greenhouse a reality.  Marquis was especially thankful to Jason Carter and his group of volunteers from Home Depot on Coliseum Avenue in Nashua for their efforts.  “We called Home Depot,” remarked Marquis, “hoping they could donate a few plastic pots and maybe some seeds.  What they did for us turned out to be so much more and we simply cannot thank them enough.”  Carter, who is store manager, and Team Depot members met with Marquis and their enthusiasm for the project took flight.  Marquis shared with the crowd that, “Before we knew it they were building tables and little work stations for the kids.  They even came to the program with tiny aprons for the children and instructed them on proper planting techniques so they would have plants ready for the ribbon cutting ceremony.  Not only did they teach our kids about gardening and healthy eating, they taught them about what it means to be a part of a community and to give back.”

Marquis’ plan is to continue with the curriculum she and her staff have developed to help their young students see the importance of not only eating healthy, but creating a sustainable source of healthy food right in their backyard.  Plants will be propagated and sent home with the children to help encourage their parents and siblings to think about healthy food choices.  Many of the parents who attended the greenhouse opening are members of the Family Connections group offered by the ECAP  which helps ECAP families connect with other families in the program, learn new parenting techniques and offers resources to families who may want a little extra help.   Dr. Ben Garber, a local child psychologist who facilitates the group and has been working with the ALC for years, noted the greenhouse perfectly mirrors the philosophy of the ECAP.  Both are focused on starting with something small, nurturing it, caring for it and watching it grow into something strong and healthy.

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School Age Adventures:  After School Care With Flair

The Adult Learning Center’s School Age Adventures Program has been providing before and after school care to local children for over twenty years, giving children a safe place to be and parents peace of mind. The day can begin as early as 6:30 a.m. for some students. Upon drop off children are greeted with breakfast and given the chance to play until their friends arrive for the regular school day. After school the schedule ranges from homework help to crafts, board games, and active play outside or in the gym. Healthy snacks, with an occasional treat, are offered each day to the hundreds of local children who attend School Age Adventures. While it all sounds like what you expect from an after school care program, it is the unexpected extras that make the ALC’s program so special.

Peak into one of the ALC’s School Age Adventures Programs, held at 22 local elementary schools, and you will find students engaged in any of a number of supplemental activities outside of the daily schedule. For example, you may find a drama rehearsal taking place under a ten week enrichment program called UpStage. UpStage rotates among the schools and provides children a taste of the theater. Program Coordinator Lois Parsons notes that a variety of enrichment programs keep things fresh and exciting for the students. “We have an enrichment teacher that goes from school to school for special activities on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Some of the things he offers are Hand Drumming, Wacky Hat Dance, Duct Tape Crafts, Minute to Win It, Paper Airplanes, Bubble Making and Soap Races.” Whatever the activity, you can be sure to find excited, engaged children who are not just playing after school, they are learning. The best part is they are having so much fun they often do not view the activity as a lesson.

A perfect example took place on a recent Friday during a special activity at the Sunset Heights Adventure Program. Jeremy Griffus, who works as a Student Support Staff at Hills Garrison Elementary School , and also works in the summer as the ALC’s Adventure Camp Activity Director, dropped by to give the students a chance to be their own scientist. As part of a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning, he administered a lesson about the concept of a vortex. Using large vortex cannons he created from garbage cans and shower curtains he walked the mini-professors through the science of how air expelled through a chamber is harnessed. The enrapt group watched and howled with laughter as he knocked down paper cup towers and ruffled their hair from yards away. Despite having already completed a full school day, it was clear these students were fully engaged.

The fun did not stop there. Each student was given the tools to create his or her own vortex chamber: a plastic container and a balloon. With the help of adult supervisors each child made a chamber and was encouraged to experiment with it. While they all started by mimicking Jeremy’s demonstrations with cups and hair, many quickly figured out they could use their chambers to shoot cups in the air. Before long they began a game using the basketball hoops in the gym. After experimenting for a few minutes the mini-scientists were called back to discuss their observations with the group. It was during this question and answer period that the lesson’s objectives were met. The students not only learned about the science behind the vortex, they developed their own theories and hypotheses. Fourth grader Nora commented that she believed she could knock down more cups because she was “stronger than the first graders and could use more force” when she pulled her balloon. This simple but important connection was made by a student, after school, in a fun and encouraging environment.

One of the nicest features of the ALC’s School Age Adventures Program is the nurturing environment. As the students eagerly participated in the STEM enrichment activity, site director Kathy Walter was ever present taking pictures of the students and encouraging them to try. Kathy, along with the two program assistants, kept all of the students focused and engaged. Adults work to create a comfortable environment for the students by posting their pictures around the gym and truly connecting with them. It is not uncommon for students to stall parents at pick up time simply because they do not want to leave.

Parsons knows it is the people who make this happen. “Each program is unique. We have staff that have been with us for years and years and have established nice relationships with families and schools. They all provide a variety of activities for children to engage in.” The importance of the program is not lost on area educators. Nashua School Superintendent Mark Conrad commented, “For many years the ALC has been a crucial partner with the Nashua School District and our parents in providing quality before and after-school programs. The ALC staff is dedicated, caring, and committed to meeting the needs of each and every child.” Parson’s continues, “ We offer time for children to play, discover, make new friends, learn new crafts and games, grow in relationships and learn to win and lose,” all under the guidance of an experienced and caring staff. Each program also participates in some sort of service learning project, from making placemats and tray decorations for meals on wheels to helping with the recycling programs at their schools. Parsons proudly points out the programs are licensed through the state and at least two of the staff per program are CPR and First Aid certified.

 

Given the history and reputation of the program many of the schools have a waiting list for openings. If you would like more information about the program please visit our website at www.adultlearningcenter.org or email Lois Parsons at lparsons@adultlearningcenter.org.

 

 

 

 

HiSET: Opening the Door to a Better Future

 

hiSET gradFebruary, 2015

They come in all ages and from all backgrounds. Some are still teenagers, while others may have not been in a high school classroom for years. All of them have a single goal: to pass the HiSET, the High School Equivalency Test (formerly GED), and make a change in their life.  Many of these students find themselves at the door of the Adult Learning Center (ALC) in Nashua, where free classes are offered to help prepare for the test, The HiSET which covers reading, writing, math, social studies and science and measures academic knowledge and proficiency equivalent to those who have earned a high school diploma. At the ALC, individuals find caring and supportive teachers who guide them through the process from registration to “graduation.”

Most of the 250-350 students who come to the ALC each year looking for help with the HiSET complete the test by the time they are 25 years old. The length of time it takes each student to finish the program is as varied as the students themselves. Adult Education Director Diana Owen says, “There is no standard amount of time” for students to complete the program. Factors such as “income level, determination, job schedule and attendance all play a part in determining how long a student will spend preparing.” For some who come with strong skills and are motivated, 3-5 months may be all the need to prepare and finish the five exams. For others, it may take years. While most of the students are young, Owen remembers, “our oldest was a successful business retiree who was 82 years old when he finished.” Whatever the story, it is always inspiring and satisfying for teachers to see students achieve their goals, and the end of the year “graduation” ceremony is a favorite for teachers and students alike.

Cameron Doucette of Nashua was a speaker at last year’s ceremony. Cameron told his story of homelessness, depression and loss which kept him from completing high school. He remembered spending hours playing video games wondering how he could turn his love for gaming into a career. One day, while walking by the ALC he saw a flyer about HiSET registration. He took a chance and changed his life. In a few short months he completed the test and received his diploma. The doors which opened to him have kept him motivated. “I wanted to keep moving with my education; I didn’t want to stop. College was the first thing on my mind, and I knew nothing about it at all. So I attended “Get Ready for College” classes (also offered at the ALC.) It prepared me for everything I needed to know and what I will face during my time in college. With the options I have at NCC in computer related fields, I have chosen to major in Computer Networking then work into a four year college after to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Film & Video Editing.”   Cameron is currently attending Nashua Community College with vigor and enthusiasm and is a stellar student.

William Quay’s story of HiSET success took a much different route. William came to the United States from Sierra Leone, where he lived with his mother after his father was killed when he was only 2 years old. His mother was an English literature teacher and education was always “pushed” in his home. Despite this upbringing, William found himself floundering in Sierra Leone. Once given the opportunity to come to America, William refocused and knew this was his chance to realize his dreams. He writes, “I learned about the Adult Learning Center and I was happy, after sleeping on my wings for many years in school, I knew I needed to strengthen my foundation. I registered and took the placement test and the following week I started classes. With all sincerity, the teachers are awesome and inspiring. I knew it was not all going to be rosy but my mind was set for success. One of the best teachers, Steve, discovered my writing skills and took personal interest in helping me develop my skills and get on to college. I took the HISET and with the help of the teachers, it was no big deal. I also went in for the Get Ready For College Program and it was amazing. Every class was one step higher in my academics. Within a year I did it all and I’m now at the Granite State College, studying Digital and Social Media as my major and IT as my minor.” The confidence he has gained is what he values most about his experience at the ALC. He knows he can reach any goal he sets his mind to and encourages others to take advantage of the offerings. “I believe if I can do it then everybody can.”

HiSET preparation classes are ongoing at the ALC and the next registration date is March 9th , from 4:00-7:00pm at 4 Lake Street in Nashua. In Milford, students can prep and take the exam at Milford High School. Registration for Milford classes is March 12th from 5:00-6:00pm. There is no fee for the classes, and the ALC can help find financial assistance for the test fees.   The tests are administered in a traditional paper form or online. Owen says most of the students are opting for the online version of the test. The flexible scheduling found at the ALC makes is ideal for people who may need to take time away from their test prep. Owen says, “some students leave for a month or two and then come back to continue their preparation. We encourage them to keep coming back until they complete the test, however long that takes.” It is that kind of understanding and caring that sets the ALC and their HiSET preparation classes apart from the rest. Working with caring teachers and other like-minded students helps hundreds of young adults reach this most important goal each year, and opens the door to a better future.

 

kids with soup

 

No More Nuggets – The ALC’s Early Childhood Adventures goes “green.”

January 2015

America’s children are overweight. The statistics listed on the Centers for Disease Control’s website are staggering. “Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children in the past 30 years. The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012, and these children are likely to be obese as adults.” This epidemic is the result of many factors; poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyle and a lack of education regarding these issues. Childhood obesity has reached the tipping point, and our kids are tipping the scales at dangerously high levels. Solving this problem is increasingly complex as many of our youngest children are spending the majority of their day in child care centers emphasizing basic care and education as opposed to proper nutrition and physical activity. The Adult Learning Center’s Early Childhood Adventure Program (ECAP) and, specifically, the new greenhouse being built in the yard, is yet another example of how the ALC’s child care is promoting a healthy lifestyle for their students and their families.

This effort began nearly three years ago when ECAP director Jane Marquis enrolled her program in the Nutrition and Physical Self-Assessment in Child Care (“NAP SACC.”) NAP SACC was created in 2002 by a team of child obesity researchers at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. NAP SACC encourages child care programs to assess how they approach nutrition and physical activity and implement changes to improve the welfare of their students and families. While the ALC’s program scored well on their self-assessment in this area, Marquis knew it could only benefit her kids to become part of the program. Using the strategies and tools provided by the NAP SACC program, significant enhancements were made in the kitchen and play yard. Breakfast and lunch menus were revised to remove juices and other sugar heavy items. Physical activity and play time were increased and became more structured to ensure all kids were moving during their time at the ALC.

Marquis understood that for the program to really make a difference everyone had to buy in. Her staff enthusiastically accepted the challenge with a few individuals taking the lead to create gardens in the play yard where students grew small amounts of fruits and vegetables. The students became engaged in growing their own food and cooking classes were added to the curriculum, even linking the new activity to their story time. They added their tiny carrots and herbs to their very own “Chicken Soup with Rice” upon hearing the story in the book of the same name by Maurice Sendak. Some of the other tasty items the children made from the ingredients in their little gardens included bell pepper veggie burgers, spinach and strawberry salad, whole-grain blueberry scones and butternut squash cake.

An important element of the NAP SACC program was the inclusion of full family units in these changes. During the ECAP’s regular Strengthening Families meetings parents, guardians and kids cooked together to help create healthy meals. “The entire culture of how we approached our mealtimes had to change,” Marquis said. “Instead of serving chicken nuggets, a perennial favorite of all preschoolers, we changed to unbreaded chicken and stopped using the term “nuggets.” The idea was to encourage the families to look for healthier alternatives at dinnertime as well, rather than the fast food options which offer the nuggets and other fried foods.”

Marquis approached former Director of the ALC, Mary Jordan, in early 2014 about purchasing a small greenhouse to encourage year round planting projects for her kids. Marquis’ suggestion was a $400 do-it-yourself kit which would provide three seasons of planting. Instead, Jordan seized upon an opportunity and received a grant through Oracle which has allowed the ALC to begin the construction of a full size greenhouse with water and electricity. As a result, the healthy changes can continue throughout the year.

The local Home Depot on Coliseum Ave. in Nashua has become the ALC’s partner in the project and will provide much needed supplies and expertise. Store manager Jason Carter is equally excited about his Garden Center team being involved in helping make the greenhouse a success. This kind of community involvement is nothing new for The Home Depot. As stated on their website, “Giving back is a fundamental value of The Home Depot and a passion for its associates. Through The Home Depot Foundation and its ongoing partnerships with nonprofit organizations, The Home Depot donates millions of hours, tools and supplies each year to community service projects. Through Team Depot, The Home Depot’s associate-led volunteer program, associates work side-by-side to create life-long, meaningful relationships between the Company and its neighbors. Team Depot programs bring together volunteerism, do-it-yourself expertise, product donations and monetary grants as a way to support the communities where the associates live and work. Projects are led by Team Depot Captains (trained volunteer leaders) who also serve as our ambassadors to the community.”

The greenhouse construction project is underway and should be completed and operational in January 2015. Marquis plans to conduct staff trainings in support of the broader effort related to the implementation of nutrition concepts into curriculum for the children. She will also hold family meetings to continue to foster smart and healthy choices for her families outside of ECAP. The goals of the greenhouse project are simple: Children will learn how to plant seeds, watch them grow, harvest their food and cooperate with others and nature in the process. Families will come together to plant, harvest and cook healthy foods while learning about food source sustainability. These are simple goals that, when reached, will make a meaningful difference in the lives of the ALC’s children.

 

The Nashua Refugee Population- Learning English and So Much More!

Adult-2

December, 2014

Thousands of immigrants and refugees enter the United States each year looking for a new home, but their journeys are often very different. Understanding those differences is important for the Nashua community as we face an increase in the number of refugees coming to Nashua in 2015. Incoming refugees have special needs and they require unique resources and services. Nashua’s Adult Learning Center provides these resources and services and the ALC staff wants to be sure the community understands the special circumstances which have led these Nashuans to their new home. Most have faced unimaginable challenges, and making the transition to their new life as smooth as possible is a daunting task for the teachers at the ALC, but a challenge they accept every day.

Immigrants have chosen to leave their home country. They are looking to resettle in another country, usually to improve their financial circumstances and make a better life for themselves and their families. A refugee is forced to leave their home country. They may be facing violence or persecution for their political or religious beliefs. They are different from immigrants because of one simple word: choice. These refugees have not chosen to leave their home, they have been forced to do so. Their stories are heartbreaking and often include leaving children or other loved ones behind. They arrive here after having spent months or even years in refugee camps in neighboring countries and in conditions unfathomable to most of us. Their needs run from the basic: food, clothing and shelter, to the more ambitious: a good job, a better life, and security. The one common denominator in meeting these needs is education, and that is where the Adult Learning Center plays a critical role for many of Nashua’s newest residents.

The Adult Learning Center offers numerous classes which start our new neighbors on their journey. English for Speakers of Other Languages (or “ESOL”) is the natural starting point. According to Adult Basic Education Director Diana Owen, “A typical ESOL class at the ALC is most importantly a welcoming and joyful place to be. We understand the great sacrifices most of our students have made to be in this country and want to help them make their dreams come true. We focus on listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills at a practical level to help students understand our culture and be able to function in it and be employed.” The teachers at the ALC recognize that good grammar and a big vocabulary are not enough for a new English speaker. For that reason, pronunciation is also a main focus during class so ESOL students can be understood when they use their new language in day to day life. “Technology skills beyond email, internet, and texting are also important as students seek or hope to retain employment,” Owen says. ESOL classes dedicate time to teaching basic keyboarding, MS Word, research, iPad and smartphone skills for learning and employment purposes.

Feeling accepted in the US is critical to the success of ESOL students. Working together with other students in a fun and relaxed classroom helps ALC students be less intimidated and more confident. They forge new relationships in school and this foundation helps them better integrate into the community outside the building. Additionally, educational games and music are often used to make learning seem easier.   These techniques are just one reason Owen has high praise for her staff. “Our goal is to build a caring, learning community where students feel accepted and are unafraid to make mistakes as they are learning. Our staff is highly skilled in teaching. They view their teaching as a mission in helping others adjust to a new culture and prosper.”

Other Adult Basic Education courses continue to help refugees find a place in their new home. Basic math and reading courses provide them skills necessary to navigate important tasks such as opening bank accounts and managing household budgets. The skills they learn at the ALC guide them through tasks we often take for granted such as paying their electric bill. Owen remembers a refugee who was confused when her lights went off after having paid her bill.   She did not realize the bill needed to be paid each month, not just once. Such simple “know-how” is not something you can find in a book.  Adults and children are starting from scratch and rely on the kindness and efforts of strangers to make their way. The “strangers” at the ALC become like family and these relationships grow over years. In fact, it is common for many refugees to return over and over to the ALC to continue their integration into the Nashua community.

One important fact rings true about many of the refugees that arrive at our doorstep. They have tremendous gratitude for the help they receive and a desire to take full advantage of the opportunities offered to them at the Adult Learning Center. According to Owen, “they work very hard to learn English, have an amazing appreciation for the teachers, come regularly to class, are happy to be here even when they may be struggling horribly, and are very generous even when they have very little.” Most simply want to fit in and feel a part of their new home. The ALC and its dedicated staff give these new Nashuans a chance to embrace a very difficult transition. With the number of refugees coming to Nashua increasing over the next year, the ALC remains an invaluable resource for our community.

Adult Learning Center Joins #GIVINGTUESDAY Movement

Sets $5000 Goal!

#GT_2014Web-Banner_300x250_BlueAlt

Nashua, NH, November, 2014:

The Adult Learning Center (ALC) has joined #GivingTuesday, a first of its kind effort that will harness the collective power of a unique blend of partners-charities, families, businesses and individuals-to transform how people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season. Coinciding with the Thanksgiving Holiday and the kickoff of the holiday shopping season, #GivingTuesday will inspire people to take collaborative action to improve their local communities, give back in better, smarter ways to the charities and causes they support and help create a better world. Taking place December 2, 2014 – the Tuesday after Thanksgiving – #GivingTuesday will harness the power of social media to create a national moment around the holidays dedicated to giving, similar to how Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become days that are, today, synonymous with holiday shopping.

The ALC joined #GIVINGTUESDAY as a way to expand their annual fund drive. Since 1972, the Adult Learning Center has provided quality education and child care to the people of greater Nashua. We share a common goal of independence, self-sufficiency and self-worth with our clients. By becoming employed and independent of social services, our students discover their own dignity and make their own special contributions to a healthy, prosperous community.  Each year the ALC seeks donations from community members to support these programs. This year we hope to spotlight our organization on #GIVINGTUESDAY and are asking our donors to share their giving experience through social media.

Seeing an opportunity to channel the generous spirit of the holiday season to inspire action around charitable giving, a group of friends and partners, led by the 92nd Street Y (92Y), came together to find ways to promote and celebrate the great American tradition of giving. Thoughtful leaders in philanthropy, social media and grassroots organizing joined with 92Y to explore what is working in modern philanthropy and how to expand these innovations throughout the philanthropic sector. The concept gained steam, and with the help of the United Nations Foundation and other founding partners, more than 10,000 organizations have joined the movement and are providing creative ways people can embrace #GivingTuesday and collaborate in their giving efforts to create more meaningful results.

“It’s been a privilege to work with remarkable leaders all over the country building a movement around #GivingTuesday,” said Henry Timms, 92Y’s Executive Director. “This initiative has truly been crowd-sourced by some of the smartest and most connected minds among the next generation of philanthropists and entrepreneurs.”

“#GivingTuesday is a counter narrative to Black Friday and Cyber Monday because it reminds us that the spirit of the holiday giving season should be about community and not just consumerism,” said Kathy Calvin, CEO of the UN Foundation. “The most meaningful gift we can give our children, loved ones, friends and neighbors is the commitment to work together to help build a better world.”

 

 

 

COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY– Reimagining your Options

October , 2014

kathi pAfter thirty-four years at the same company Kathi P’s world changed when she and many others were laid off. It was unexpected and a scary time.  Luckily, Kathi found the Adult Learning Center and what she once considered a major negative turned into a chance for her to grow and reimagine her future.  Kathi is one of 14 students currently enrolled in the ALC’s Computer Technology program.  The program offers twenty-five different courses from refresher keyboarding  and the full Microsoft Office Suite to six medical office administration course as well as accounting.  Kathi plans to make her way through all of them.  She is well on her way and is currently immersed in medical office administration courses.  She hopes to gain employment in a medical office and knows continuing  to develop a number of new skills will only make her that much more appealing to potential employers.

Kathi did not run blindly into the doors of the ALC. When she heard about the opportunities offered she took the time to stop in and see for herself.  What attracted her to the program was the atmosphere.  The classroom setting was non-threatening and welcoming.  The flexible schedule and “learn at your own pace” philosophy made the decision to enroll that much easier.  She calls the fees for the class a “bargain” compared to other options she was investigating.

While all of these things attracted Kathi to the ALC, what keeps her coming back is the people. Her instructor Nancy Heinlein is the coordinator of the program as well as the teacher for many of the classes.   Along with the other teacher in the program, Lena Orleans, Nancy provides one on one instruction as the students guide themselves through the courses.  She periodically “checks in” when she sees a student struggling or losing focus.   Nancy clearly loves what she does and tries to include “real world” advice for her students in her lessons.    Many, like Kathi, are repeat customers.

The computer technology program is a hidden gem in the Nashua community. So many jobs require technical skills that many older students never learned in school.    The ALC and the computer tech program, in particular, provides a place for individuals to become more marketable, and that is of benefit to them, local businesses and the community at large.  Many people don’t know that course fees can be covered in a number of different ways.  Many current students are enrolled as part of the Trade Act.  The Trade Act and “The Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Program” is a “federal entitlement program that assists U.S. workers who have lost or may lose their jobs as a result of foreign trade. This program seeks to provide adversely affected workers with opportunities to obtain the skills, credentials, resources, and support necessary to become reemployed.” (brochure , na., doleta.gov) As a result, rather than looking for any job just to earn a paycheck, these students have the chance to acquire skills so they can get an equal or better job than the one they lost.  Students also find their way to the ALC from the NH Unemployment and Vocational Rehab setting.  Regardless of how they find their way to the ALC, all of them leave with a renewed sense of worth and marketability.  For students like Kathi, having options is a good feeling.

Kathi is not sure what is next for her, except that she wants to complete all of the courses in the program. She has a diverse set of interests and her time spent at the ALC has helped her greatly.  She has recently been elected as a state delegate for the Republican Party and sits on the board of the Nashua Historical Society.  Regardless of what she chooses to do next, she is sure to do so with confidence and skill, and she knows she has the Adult Learning Center and people like Nancy Heinlein and Lena Orleans to thank for her bright future.

For more information about the computer technology program or any of the programs offered at the Adult Learning Center please visit our website at www.adultlearningcenter.org.

 

THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS REPRINTED COURTESY OF THE NASHUA TELEGRAPH

Shaheen in Nashua to discuss legislation to expand tax credits for child care

Tuesday, July 8, 2014
By TINA FORBES, Staff Writer

NASHUA – It’s time child care tax credits are updated for the first time since their introduction in 1976, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said during a visit to the Adult Learning Center’s Early Childhood Adventures Program on Monday.

Shaheen said childhood education costs families about $12,000 per year in New Hampshire.

“Just as families have changed, costs have changed. We need to make sure our tax credit better reflects the real costs families are paying,” she said.

Coordinator Jane Marquis led a tour of the center’s child care facility accompanied by Mayor Donnalee Lozeau, previous ALC director Mary Jordan and current director Carol Baldwin, state Senators Bette Lasky and Peggy Gilmour, as well as Adult Learning Center staff.

The “Helping Working Families Afford Child Care Act,” supported by U.S. Senators Shaheen, Barbara Boxer, Patty Murray and Kirsten Gillibrand, would change tax credit for child care in three ways.

First, it would increase the amount of eligible expenses.

The present law gives a credit for 20 to 35 percent of child care expenses totaling $3,000 for one child and $6,000 for two or more children. The 20 percent credit rate applies for family incomes of $43,000, allowing those households a maximum credit of $600 or $1,200.

The new expense guidelines would be $8,000 for one child and $16,000 for two or more children.

It also would allow low- and middle-income families a maximum credit of $1,600 or $3,200 in 2015. The act would include inflation so the credit does not lose value over time.

Second, the credit would be fully refundable.

Currently, families who don’t owe federal income tax because their income is too low cannot use the credit.

The proposed change would make these families eligible for a refund.

Lastly, the initiative would narrow eligibility to families in the most need.

Shaheen said the child care credit would gradually be phased out for anyone making over $200K per year.

“Working families who get help with childcare are much more likely to stay working,” Shaheen said.


THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS REPRINTED COURTESY OF THE NASHUA TELEGRAPH

New director takes over at Nashua Adult Learning Center

Monday, June 30, 2014
By TINA FORBES, Staff Writer

NASHUA – Carol Baldwin began her first week as director of the Nashua Adult Learning Center last Monday, replacing a legend.

The former director, Mary Jordan, headed the organization for 27 years. But with big shoes to fill, Baldwin is ready for the task

“I’m thrilled to pieces … Mary is an amazing woman, she’s made it a great organization, I’m blown away by the culture. Now I have a lot to learn, Mary’s a tough act to follow.”

After 14 years as a law firm secretary, and 14 years in corporate America, Baldwin said she hopes to spend the next 14 years at the Adult Learning Center

“I’ve come full circle. There was a time when I actually cleaned these offices,” Baldwin said.

Although she lives in Merrimack now, Baldwin said Nashua still feels like her community. She grew up in Nashua, graduating in the same class as Mayor Donnalee Lozeau.

She tried attending college for nursing twice, but dropped out and “kind of floundered.”

Then Baldwin went through secretary school and wound up working with Mary Jordan’s late husband Ted at his law firm.

“I worked there for 14 years when Ted asked why I didn’t go to college, and said I’d make a good paralegal.”

With Jordan’s help, she attended Rivier for a paralegal BA. To pay her portion of tuition, Baldwin cleaned offices, including the ones at the Adult Learning Center.

When the attorneys realized she was serious about her studies, she said they picked up full tuition, and she received her bachelor’s degree in 1995, then eventually went on for a master’s degree.

“I got my master’s in education from Rivier. That was a huge gift to come out of Rivier with no student loans,” she said.

She wanted to thank them, and offered to stay as long as they wanted.

“Ted thought that was indentured servitude, instead he asked to give it back in community service,” said Baldwin.

After school, she worked as a corporate paralegal at RiverStone Resources.

“One day I was sitting at my desk and had an ‘aha’ moment; I realized I forgot to give back. I didn’t know how to do community service work, so I called Mary and asked to join the board at the Adult Learning Center,” she said.

She stayed on the board for years while working as a paralegal all the while talking about the Adult Learning Center.

“The thing I’m most proud of is the idea to invite nonprofit organizations to meetings to speak to employees,” she said. She was able to put in grant requests for the Adult Learning Center, but it never felt like work.

“It was really about what Ted and Mary did for me many years ago.”

Mary Jordan had been a big help guiding Baldwin through the college application process. She it was a lot like the college prep program at the ALC.

She parted ways with RiverStone on a high note, she said.

“They wished me well and made a $15,000 contribution to the Adult Learning Center.”

She said she’s surrounded by professional tenured staff, many of whom she knows from her time on the ALC board.

“The Adult Learning Center is the organization it is today because it does so very much right,” said Baldwin. “This is a talented and organized staff. I’m looking forward to taking it to the next level; picking up the ball and carrying it to the future.”


THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS REPRINTED COURTESY OF THE NASHUA TELEGRAPH

Adult Learning Center graduates show resilience

Friday, June 20, 2014
By TINA FORBES, Staff Writer

NASHUA – Adult Learning Center executive director Mary Jordan said this spring’s graduating class can be described as resilient, resourceful and tenacious.

“You showed perseverance and dedication … you’ve figured out your own way of doing things,” Jordan said.

The Adult Learning Center of Nashua held its annual high school equivalency test and GED graduation for adult learners Thursday.

Many students went through a lot to get their HiSET or GED. Jordan said students had to balance work and family responsibilities on top of their studies.

Student speaker Cameron Doucette was no exception.

“I’ve had many ups and downs in my life … We were given every reason to give up but we didn’t,” Doucette said in his address.

He said he came to the center by chance when he was downtown to buy a soda and noticed a sign for adult education opportunities.

“I wanted to be resilient, I wanted to be happy,” he said of his decision to sign up.

Doucette was issued his GED December 31, 2013, and has recently participated in the college prep program at the center. His next move is studying computer networking at Nashua Community College.

Doucette was also one of the Carol Kreick Scholarship recipients, winning $1,000 to use toward his education at NCC.

Student speaker Marcio Ribeiro just finished the college prep program as well. Ribeiro said he was moved to further his education so he could set an example for his young daughter. He was the other Kreick Scholarship winner with a $2,000 award. Ribeiro is pursuing a business administration degree at NCC.

Kristela Hernandez had just passed her HiSET test Wednesday. She spoke to her class Thursday about her path to graduation.

“In high school … nobody ever asked me what I wanted to be, who I wanted to be when I grow up.”

She said she didn’t think much about it either and dropped out at 16. After going through a series of different jobs, she decided to pursue her GED.

“That was the day my life began … for the first time I felt at home and I felt that I belong,” said Hernandez. “I fell in love with the people here … I fell in love with the culture and atmosphere. They motivated and inspired me to be the person I was meant to be.”

Art Ellison, administrator from the NH Bureau of Adult Education, gave the graduates advice for their future in his commencement address.

“Don’t let others give you a ceiling … don’t let others tell you what you can’t do,” said Ellison. “Think about who you take advice from.”

Ellison also gave tips on responsible voting, and urged students to become familiar with what each candidate represents.

“Being a good citizen isn’t just about voting, it’s about voting intelligently,” he said.

Ellison presented certificates to graduates along with Nancy Heinlein, HiSET test examiner.

Adult education coordinator Diana Owen presented flowers to Jordan and Susan Katz, both of whom are leaving the Center.

The private non-profit organization serves more than 3,500 people per year out of facilities on Lake and Arlington Street.

The center has programs for preschoolers, children, teenagers as well as for adults.



THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS REPRINTED COURTESY OF THE NASHUA TELEGRAPH

Nashua Adult Learning Center chief retiring after 27 years at helm

June 7, 2014

After teaching adult basic education and directing different programs for nearly a decade under Dotty Oliver, the late, beloved founder and longtime director of the Adult Learning Center, Mary Jordan came this close to giving up the nonprofit arena for the public school system.

On a warm spring day last month, Jordan sat in her office at the Lake Street building that old-timers remember as James B. Crowley Elementary School and recalled fondly the day she changed her mind – and the man whose suggestion set her decision to stay put in motion.

John Cepaitis, a retired Nashua superintendent of schools who was on the ALC board at the time, thought Jordan would be ideal for the directorship of the agency, and told her so.

“John asked me if I’d be interested, and they offered me the position,” Jordan said. “The building needed a lot of work at the time, and they felt it would take someone already invested (in the agency) to do all that.”

So Jordan stayed on, adding what turned out to be 27 more years to her association with the ever-growing, successful center whose staff has guided countless thousands of people, from local natives to newly arrived immigrants from around the world, to better, smarter, more productive and fulfilling lives over more than four decades.

As all good things must, Jordan’s stint at the helm is coming to an end this month, and if anyone thought for a minute her associates, friends and family members would let her ride off quietly into the world of retirement, they never met those who know and love Mary Jordan.

Comments from Mary Jordan’s Retirement Reception

“Mary is a humble, quiet soul who doesn’t like a lot of attention, doesn’t want a lot of fanfare,” Carol Kreick, president of the ALC board and a longtime friend, told close to 200 people who gathered recently at Sky Meadow Country Club for Jordan’s retirement reception.

“But you just can’t spend all these years in a leadership role like Mary’s and have people just say, ‘So long and thanks for the memories.’ ”

Jordan, who will be succeeded by Carol Baldwin, a human-resources professional and former ALC board member, handled all of the attention well for someone who’d rather be toiling behind the scenes or mingling with her staff and students.

Several family members, including her brother and sister-in-law Richard and Betty Hurley and a niece from her native Minnesota, filled two or three tables at the reception.

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau brought laughs when she began reading the requisite mayoral proclamation dedicated to Jordan.

“Whereas, Mary Jordan was born on Nov. 12, 19-umumum,” Lozeau said, apparently keeping a vow not to release Jordan’s age.

“You’ve touched a lot of lives,” Lozeau said later on. “Our community is a better place because of you.”

State Sen. Betty Lasky, of Nashua, told the group that Jordan played a role in launching her career.

“Mary is probably the reason I got into politics,” Lasky said, recalling the days when she was a neighbor of Jordan’s and her late husband, Ted Jordan, who died in 2002.

One night, the Jordans invited Lasky and her husband, Elliot, over to meet a prospective presidential candidate; that candidate turned out to be Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy.

ALC staff member Marianne Wiley said Jordan never took her focus off advocating for her staff as much as she did for the center’s clientele.

“She was compassion without patronization,” Wiley said. “She simply raises the bar for all of us.”

Another staffer, Diana Owen, used numbers to illustrate Jordan’s impact.

“Mary led the center through the administrations of seven governors, six mayors and five school superintendents,” Owen said, saving the best number for last.

“Mary has impacted the lives of approximately 80,000 people,” she said to a round of applause.

Former ALC student Molly Little, who credited the center staff for inspiring her to get her high school diploma and to go on to earn a master’s degree, said her conversations with Jordan were special.

“They left me feeling like I could go out and conquer the world,” Little told the group. “Mary believed in others even when we didn’t believe in ourselves.”

Jordan’s daughter Meghan van Vliet, before publicly thanking her mom for “being there” through her children’s and grandchildren’s lives, brought a hearty laugh from attendees.

“When she told me she was retiring, I said, ‘Mom, you’d better get some hobbies or you’ll end up in front of the TV, watching cooking shows and drinking wine,” van Vliet joked.

The Adult Learning Center was on Burke Street, and still an experiment in progress, when Jordan signed on as an adult basic education teacher in 1977. She and Oliver developed a mutual respect and association that endures today.

Several years after the building’s days as an elementary school ended, the city deeded it to the center. That was in 1987, and Jordan says there was lots of work to be done.

Newly installed as executive director, Jordan launched a fundraising drive in 1989; its success was the shot in the arm the building, as well as the center’s mission, needed.

Once Jordan, the board and countless donors came together to shore up and spruce up the old school built in 1924, it was off to the races. More staff was hired as new programs were added, and more and more local folks were coming in to sign up for classes.

“When I became director, I think the staff was about 12-15 people,” Jordan said, breaking a smile. “Now it’s 100-plus.”

Likewise, the budget grew, from a comparatively measly $400,000 in 1987 to upward of $5 million today.

But of all the then-and-now comparisons, Jordan’s favorite, the one she’s most proud of, is the one under the “enrollment” column.

“We had about 100 students in ’87,” she said. “Now, including all of our programs, we see about 3,000 each year.”

Her next sentence was full of praise for the ALC staff: “Everyone is involved in every program in some fashion. That makes us very, very strong.”

The hardest part of her directorship?

“Funding is always the concern in the nonprofit world,” Jordan said, adding that the staff and students alike not only get involved in fundraisers, many students are also de facto ALC “lobbyists,” volunteering to go to Concord to put a face on the funding battles when state legislators start talking funding cuts.

“They’ve made a huge difference,” Jordan said. “They’re our best advocates.”

The USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is the funding source for the serving of nutritious meals in our childcare and school age care programs.