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Lynn-based workforce training program helping students to master English

Pathways employee Juana Perez chats with CEO Edward Tirrell. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — Andie Salvador wants to climb the career ladder at Salem Hospital and she has her sights on the highest rungs thanks to a Lynnway-based English language and workforce training program.

Pathways Adult Education & Training helps Salvador, a Lynn resident, and about 400 other students annually to master English even as they hold down jobs and learn other skills.

Hired as an observer to help ensure patient safety at Salem Hospital, Salvador saw a Pathways brochure at her workplace and enrolled a year ago in classes taught by Pathways teachers on the third floor of the Clocktower Business Center.

She said mastering the English language will allow her to apply for and land an accounts administrator job at the hospital.

“I want to keep learning and improving,” she said.

Pathways’ classroom and offices in the converted factory overlooking the Lynnway is a hub of activity with students from 30 countries speaking 18 different languages.

They learn English in 18 classes a day structured to fit students’ work, family life and school schedules.

“Two-thirds of our students are working. Some have two, some three jobs,” said CEO Edward Tirrell.

Salvador has spoken English for three years and said Pathways’ morning and evening class schedules fit around her work hours. She said program teachers are patient and there are opportunities to practice speaking English in relaxed settings.

Pathways scored high among 84 Massachusetts adult training programs based on “measurable skills gains” compiled by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

Measurable gains look at the progress individual students make during a year they are enrolled in Pathways or similar programs, said DESE Media Relations Coordinator Jacqueline Reis.

“Pathways well exceeded their measurable skill gain goal for English for speakers of other language and for adult basic education students,” Reis said.

Pathway’s CEO for seven years, Tirrell said the learning program transformed two years ago from an English-for-adults education agency with roots in Lynn dating back to 1976 to an agency matching language skills development with workforce training.

“We used to be a place where you learned English and then it was goodbye and good luck,” Tirrell said.

Pathways borrowed from examples of best practices for adult education programs around the country and forged partnerships with Lynn Vocational Technical Institute’s health technology training program and a teacher training program offered at North Shore Community College.

The college launched teacher training last month and paired 16 student interns with mentor teachers working in childcare centers. The students attend Pathways to improve their English skills and obtain basic adult education.

“The collaboration is a win-win for everyone involved,” said LeeAnn Soucy, the college coordinator working with Pathways.

Tirrell said the state recognition for measurable gains shows Pathways’ programs are helping students. The program also has the support of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who donated $100,000 from the Kraft Family Foundation to Pathways last August.

Kraft’s telephone call to Tirrell informing him of the donation caught the Pathways CEO off guard.

“He said, ‘Well, I’m not the macaroni guy,'” said Tirrell.


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