Breaking barriers … lifting spirits … inspiring young women to excel intellectually and academically … providing access to arts and culture … supporting struggling young families as they move toward self-sufficiency … shifting from a community dealing with the challenges of poverty to one that is a leader in innovative education reform — these define the work of The Care Center.
The Care Center is an alternative education program for pregnant and parenting teens who have dropped out of high school. Before coming to The Care Center, many of our students say they had fallen out of love with learning, that they didn’t think of themselves as smart, and that school was not for them. All students attending The Care Center previously dropped out of school, most before getting pregnant. They were on track for minimum wage jobs, with public assistance as a safety net. Yet every single one of our students wanted a better life for themselves and their children; they just did not have the tools to get there.
What does it take to instill a love of education, an understanding of one’s personal gifts and talents, and the determination to follow a path toward more satisfying and higher paying jobs? We looked at the educational practices that lead young people to become life-long engaged learners. We explored the question: What components create the best education that money can buy? We saw that the quality of education offered at our nation’s best college preparatory schools yields students who succeed in the classroom and who carry their learning skills into adulthood. These schools demonstrate proven methods to successfully engage learners and educate young people.
We saw that these “prep schools” share some significant common attributes. All focus on exposure to arts, humanities, and athletics. And they all share three very important building blocks:
- Small class sizes
- An assumption of and commitment to student success
- Strong ongoing support for students
We incorporated each of these core elements into our standard GED preparation program design. The results are extraordinary. Currently, between 70 and 85 percent of Care Center students who leave The Care Center with their GEDs go on to college. These statistics rival the best schools in the country!
All students have intellectual hunger and capacity. To assume anything less would be misguided. Not only can our young women succeed, they must — for themselves, their children, their community, and the health of the nation.
Each year more than 120 students attend The Care Center. We provide four GED classrooms, poetry and creative writing classes, art and computer classes, parenting education, career exploration, comprehensive athletic programs, college transition support, and numerous courses offered for college credit.
The academic program is augmented with Rowing Strong, Rowing Together, a rowing program created in conjunction with Mount Holyoke College and now involving numerous teen parent programs throughout the region. Since 1998, The Clemente Course in The Humanities, has been offered as a college course at The Care Center. We also operate The Teen Resource Project, an after-school teen pregnancy prevention program, now in its 18th year.