The Open Society Foundations Special Fund for Poverty Alleviation has awarded Holyoke Community College a $100,000 grant that will be used to help former inmates and adult immigrants learning English transition to college and improve their career prospects.
The Open Society Foundations selected HCC's Ludlow Area Adult Learning Center as one of eight demonstration sites nationwide to develop college transition and career pathways initiatives as part of the foundation's Points of Entry project. Half of the money will be used by the Hampden County Sheriff's Department to create a bridge to college class at its after-incarceration support services site on State Street in Springfield, in conjunction with the Community Education Project. The program will be modeled after HCC's Bridge to Adult Basic Education Transition to College and Careers program (ABE TCC). The class will initially include a cohort of 15-20 post-incarceration adults with the goal of having them continue their education through HCC's ABE TCC program, the next level up.
"We looked to see how we could maximize the impact of the funding regionally, not just in our program," said Kermit Dunkelberg, program coordinator of the Ludlow AALC and the administrator of the grant. "This is part of a whole larger effort to make college more accessible to under-advantaged adults."
The other half of the funds will be used at the Ludlow facility, 54 Winsor St., to integrate career pathways content into existing classes for adult immigrants learning English. "We're finding that by infusing career pathways and college readiness into the curriculum, students who might not have thought of those as goals for themselves are starting to think about those things," said Dunkelberg. "In Mass., we have an adult basic education system that is student centered and we're supposed to honor the goals of the student. So we deliberately did not design this for people only with a career goal or only with a college goal. We're designing it so anyone can identify the goal that is relevant to them. So the next step might be college, it might be a training program, it might be a better job. It might be a first job for a few people."
The program, which will run 10 hours a week, also includes the addition of math and computer skills to the curriculum, as well as skills assessments in both math and reading. "That was not done in our ESL (English as a Second Language) program before," he said.
Being chosen as a demonstration site means the models developed through the grant could ultimately be adopted at other locations. An outside evaluator will come in to do interviews with students at the beginning and at the end of the program. "That is their goal," said Dunkelberg. "They want to learn from what's implemented, try to draw conclusions that can be adapted across the country."
The grant runs through June 30, 2012, but the programs could continue through a matching fund component. Dunkelberg said HCC already has secured $6,000 from a Dept. of Labor grant to pay the portion of salaries for two career counselors that he expects will be matched by the Open Society Foundations.
Photos: (Left) Students at HCC's Ludlow Area Adult Learning Center practice computer skills. (Right) Sue MacKay leads a basic computer class at the Ludlow Area Adult Learning Center.