New literacy center provides road map to higher education

July 25, 2011

Audience at James House Grand Opening in Northampton

Photo courtesy of the City of Northampton

Adult learners in Hampshire County have been given an opportunity to prepare for college or a career at the James House Community Learning Center in Northampton. Thanks to an educational collaborative initiated by Mayor Clare Higgins of Northampton, the center celebrated its opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony on July 11.

Northampton Community Education Consortium (NCEC) offers free or low cost programs at James House, such as: ESOL, family literacy, technology, job counseling, citizenship application coaching, as well as other educational opportunities. Beginning in fall 2012, HCC and GCC will offer college developmental courses.

Once home to the Franklin-Hampshire County Juvenile Jail (evident by the cellblocks that line the basement), the historic, 18th century building has been home to The Center for New Americans (CNA) and The Literacy Project (TLP) since 2008. In addition, Holyoke Community College provides GED testing and jointly offers transition to college courses in partnership with Greenfield Community College.

Ken White, Dean of Community Services at Holyoke Community College, has been part of this collaboration since 2007, when Mayor Higgins called on community leaders to weigh in on her plans. Community organizations and leaders came together to develop and fund the $600,000 project that will be the heart of adult literacy and education in Hampshire County.

"This facility is an investment in our democracy and our future," Higgins remarked at the ribbon cutting ceremony. "Democracy depends on a literate population."

Transformation of the James House was made possible through a variety of funding sources, which include Community Development Block Grant, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Massachusetts Technology Corporation, economic development initiative grant that U.S. Representative Richard E. Neal (D-Springfield) secured, and donations from Smith College, Home Depot, and the Beveridge Family Foundation.

Over the last few years, Holyoke Community College has seen a number of students who participated in the transition programs matriculating with ease into college classes.

"James House is about hope and opportunity," said Ken White, "we look forward to working with the Consortium and the City of Northampton in the future to develop additional programming for the facility so that every student who passes through these doors can recognize their true potential and achieve their dreams."

For more information call the James House at (413) 587-0084.


Holyoke Community College
303 Homestead Ave. Holyoke, MA 01040