If you were to create a plan to break the cycle of poverty in Holyoke and create an economically vibrant city, what would it look like? Some say that it would look like The Care Center, an alternative education program designed to prepare and empower young mothers to embrace their education and create a successful future for themselves and their families.
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 educational reform and community enhancement, developing a model that can be used across the country—this is the work of The Care Center.
The Care Center helps young mothers grasp how powerful they are, gives our students the tools to learn, and provides them with an exciting and engaging learning environment.
Each year 100 pregnant and parenting teens attend The Care Center’s education programs on an open enrollment basis. Before coming to The Care Center, many of our students would say that 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 have dropped out of school, most before getting pregnant. Most were on track for minimum wage jobs at best, with public assistance as a safety net. Yet all wanted a different life for themselves and their children, they just did not have the tools to get there. We are here to help them grasp how powerful they are, give them the tools to learn and provide them with an exciting and engaging learning environment.
What does it take to inspire a love of education, an understanding of one’s personal gifts and talents, and a path toward higher paying jobs? Here in the United States we have a long tradition of quality education. We know what works educationally for young people and these best practices are at work every day in our country’s private schools. The Care Center looked at these schools and the educational practices they used to guide young people to become life-long, engaged learners. We explored the question: “What does the best education that money can buy look like?” We saw that quality education offered at our nation’s best private schools helped students succeed in the classroom and beyond. These schools demonstrate what it takes to engage learners and educate young people.
Time and time again we saw that these schools shared some specific common attributes: all incorporated a focus on the arts, humanities, and athletics, and all incorporated four very important design elements:
- Small class sizes
- An assumption of and commitment to student success
- Extensive student support
- Engaging and challenging academic material
We took these elements and incorporated them into our standard High School Equivalency preparation program design. The results are exciting. Since 2004, an average of 75% of Care Center students who leave with their High School Equivalency go on to college – a statistic that rivals the best schools in the country!