Rowing Strong, Rowing Together is our rowing program designed to bring a high-quality, team-building athletic activity to a population of young women who would otherwise have little or no access to this kind of opportunity. This program was launched by Care Center staff  in partnership with Mount Holyoke College, which provides coaching, additional staff and equipment.  Today, a number of communities, colleges and rowing programs around New England are committed to bringing rowing to young mothers as part of Rowing Strong, Rowing Together.

Rowing provides an opportunity for a number of important lessons that impact self-esteem, community building and the experience of mastery.  In this powerful sport, each rower is dependent on the actions of the others in the boat, yet has the space and ability to focus on her own progress and technique. Rowing is a sport where the connection between hard work, discipline and progress is easily understood.  The more you row, the stronger you get.  The link is very direct both physically and emotionally.  Rowing also presents experiential opportunities to learn about physics, spatial relations, science and the environment.  These are all areas that young women might shy away from, particularly women who have experienced school failure at an early age.

We have initiated and support rowing programs for young mothers in Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven, CT as well as Hanover, NH. We have also launched programs for teen mothers in Pittsfield, Boston and Springfield, MA. Each August, rowing teams compete in the annual Young Parents Regatta on the Connecticut River in nearby South Hadley, MA.

The Teen Resource Project (TRP)
For more than two decades, TRP has been a free after-school youth development and teen pregnancy prevention program for Holyoke middle and high school students at risk of dropping out. The program combines tutoring, literacy, arts and community involvement to create an exciting and intellectually rich place for teens to explore and understand their world. This year, more than 50 students executed public art projects, filmed personal documentaries and contributed to a full-length student created documentary film at Hampshire College while experiencing firsthand the pleasure of learning and mastering educational skills.

TRP has become a respite for many young people, a safe haven where they can be with supportive adults, connect in positive ways with their peers, and explore the world and their futures as competent and successful young people. The program is open all year, Monday through Thursday from 2:30 until 6:30pm.

TRP has distinguished itself by developing multidisciplinary projects which promote a love of learning, a sense of possibility and opportunities for leadership development.  The most recent of these projects, Raiders of the Lost Mills, began as a summer program in 2009.  The program is a partnership of several community and arts organizations, which incorporated local poets, theater artists, and mural artists, and filmmakers.

Raiders of the Lost Mills incorporates positive environmental citizenship and life-long health initiatives through community partnerships with Nuestras Raices  Farm in Holyoke and by visiting and volunteering at Brooklyn Grange Farm – the world’s largest rooftop farm – in Queens, NY. This year Raiders have formed an exciting new partnership with Riverscaping, an innovative international program designed to expand consciousness of and connection to the rivers in our lives and cities.

TRP’s goal was to alter how young people perceive Holyoke, and for them to recognize the potential of the factories and mills which define the city. Visiting Massachusetts towns and mills engaged students in hands-on exploration of  the industrial revolution and the role of immigrants in the history of American industry.  Raiders of the Lost Mills field trips include tours of factories, colleges and re-purposed mills including The Lowell National Historical Park, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Bard College, Framingham State College and El Puente Center in Brooklyn, NY.

Clemente Course in the Humanities
This college course, taught by five seasoned humanities scholars, was first developed for low income people at the Roberto Clemente Center in Manhattan.  Bard College offers college credits to all who successfully complete this challenging course. The curriculum includes philosophy, American history, art history, literature, and critical thinking and writing.  The course is based on the belief that through studying the humanities, those who are economically and educationally disadvantaged can acquire the cultural knowledge and conceptual skills to improve their personal and economic situations and become active participants in civic life.  The course also has the goal of strengthening one’s sense of personal responsibility, developing respect for the power of reason and dialogue, and providing a new and compelling sense of what is possible.

For more than a decade, The Clemente Course in the Humanities has been a program of The Care Center.  Ours is the longest continuously running Clemente Course in the country, and remains the only one exclusively serving women. Care Center students as well as other low-income women in the community take this course together, reinforcing the message that education is for women of all ages. Aunts, cousins and grandmothers take the course together.  As a result, The Care Center enjoys a reputation as the ‘go to’ place for women to take the first step and start college.

Readers and Writers Series
Many Care Center students discover a love of language and literature through studying poetry. As they begin to read and write poetry, they discover a personal, authentic voice. They begin to see themselves as human beings with a lot to offer the world.  Our students work closely with poetry in three distinct ways:

  • Studying the work of the famous poets who visit The Care Center each semester
  • Writing poetry daily in class
  • Publishing Nautilus II each year

Smith College Poetry Center partners with The Care Center to bring their visiting poets to our classrooms. Poets who have read their work at The Care Center include Mark Doty, Sharon Olds, Martín Espada, Nikky Finney, Lesléa Newman, Patricia Smith, and Patricia Lee Lewis, who was herself a teen mother in Texas in the 1950’s.

In preparation for each visiting poet, students study and discuss one of his/her books of poetry. They also write poems based on themes from that poet’s work. After doing a reading at The Care Center, each poet has a question and answer period, and signs his/her books for students.

The annual release of Nautilus II, a student-published poetry and art journal, is a highlight of every year at The Care Center.  Nautilus II is a student run project, driven by a student editorial board and design team. Care Center poets write to famous poets who’ve visited to secure back cover comments for the journal. Now in its tenth volume, the entire Nautilus II series is in the Smith College Library and the University of Massachusetts Poetry Archives.

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  • My Imagination

    by Dalisa Saldana

    Going away with you
    is like going to the moon
    and coming back.

    It's like sitting
    on the beach and
    listening to the waves.

    It's like going to China
    and exploring
    other cultures.

    You are my imagination
    where everything
    is perfect,
    colorful, and happy.