JUNTOS IN THE COMMUNITY
Since 1991, CEP has served the education needs of Holyoke's Latino community. Recently it moved into a South Holyoke storefront that's been converted into classroom space. The entrance displays photos of graduates, students' poetry, and other student work. CEP, a nonprofit, has a very active board of directors that includes a number of current and former adult learners. Its programs are funded by the Massachusetts DOE through Juntos, Holyoke Community Development Block Grant funds, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, and other public and private sources. CEP's courses include beginning Native Language literacy and ABE for Spanish speakers, intermediate and advanced EL, ABE-to-College Transition classes, an evening GED class, and an afternoon EL class for parents of children in a nearby K-8 school. CEP's partnership with the local Community Technology Center, ACCESS Holyoke, allows it to provide computer literacy training for parents and their children at a nearby computer lab. CEP teachers have developed innovative ways to engage low-level EL learners, such as writing and performing plays. Students choose the themes of the plays and they also write scripts, conduct research, and act.
CEP learners are grateful for the opportunity Juntos provides to improve their English language skills. One learner, a Catholic nun from Romania, said that she started English at the HALO Center and because her English has improved, she is now taking courses at CEP. She said, "As a missionary, I need to be able to speak English. If I can't, I can't help someone." Another learner pointed out, "Only 6 percent of 17-19 year-olds in Holyoke will go to college. That's why ABE programs are really important—for those who do not. Holyoke is one of the cities within Massachusetts that has the greatest need. Large numbers of adults want to study." He continued, "I want to ensure that the opportunity to get the education that I am getting is available to all people who want and need it."
MASSACHUSETTS CAREER DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE'S PERSONAL TOUCH
Seventy-five adult learners receive special care at MCDI, whether they're enrolled in English literacy or job-training courses. Why? Larry Bay, program coordinator, and his staff are all former MCDI students. They understand what it's like to work full-time, care for a family, and go to school. As one learner said, "Our teacher is the best! She really understands because she's been there, too."
Bay points to MCDI's commitment to employment training and support as central to its unique role in Holyoke, noting that "many of the people served by the Juntos Collaborative are impoverished, and finding a means of financial independence is often a priority for them. MCDI offers office systems technology and certified nurse aide training programs which include counseling, job placement assistance. . . and a variety of other support services. These trainings offer a viable career option to those unable to or uninterested in pursuing a college education."