Lynn Tech program focuses on adult education

LYNN — The Lynn Community Enrichment Program, which offers night classes to provide new skills to adults at Lynn Vocational Technical Institute, is wrapping up its winter session.

The program, a collaboration between the Lynn Public Schools and New Lynn Coalition, started in 2015 as a way to use Lynn Tech as a resource for the community and provide learning opportunities for the city’s adults.

Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler said many of the people taking the program’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes are parents of the district’s students.

“I just love the idea of us being partnered both during the day and during the evening to meet the learning needs of the community,” Tutwiler said.

A variety of classes are offered, with some geared toward teaching people and getting them certified in a trade, such as welding and carpentry; life skills, such as cooking; giving adults an opportunity to learn English as a second language or even giving them a chance to take exercise classes.

“The idea was to provide learning opportunities for adults in the community and some of the classes actually move toward credentials for work, and so this is part of the Lynn Public Schools’ values around being a community-facing, community-partnering organization,” Tutwiler said.

Tony Dunn, program coordinator, told the School Committee on Monday night that the Lynn Community Enrichment has been successful, but has its challenges.

Six classes were canceled for the winter session, including Auto Body Appraisal and the popular Cake Decorating class, because of a lack of enrollment or teachers being unavailable to teach the courses, according to Dunn.

The six-week sessions run in the winter and spring. For 12 hours of instruction over that time period, the cost is $65, but a three-hour course would cost $95. New Lynn Coalition has offered discounts for its members, which meant they paid $30 of the $65 fee.

Dunn said the goal is to break even in terms of having enough students enrolled to offset the cost of running the program. For the winter session, the 70 students enrolled paid a combined tuition of $5,385, slightly lower than the $5,400 teachers were paid.

Michelle Guzman, Spanish engagement organizer for New Lynn Coalition, works as an assistant to the night school, which includes providing bilingual outreach. She asked for the School Committee’s help with the program’s paraprofessionals.

Dunn said the paraprofessional class had to be canceled, although he had been told there was a great need for paraprofessionals in the Lynn Public Schools. The problem is there are only five paraprofessional testing centers in Massachusetts, according to the Parapro website, with the closest in Lawrence.

Dunn said they have looked at bringing a testing center to Lynn and found out it was doable, with Guzman adding it would be the only one on the North Shore. The program has 10 ready to go and take the test, Guzman said.

But Tutwiler said it’s challenging to create a testing center, and more research has to be done to find out why. He encouraged people ready to take the test to go to Lawrence.

The program is also updating its safety policy, which would make sure a coordinator is notified when a safety incident occurs. This came in response to a senior citizen “setting himself on fire” and sustaining third degree burns on his leg during a welding class.

In that case, a coordinator was not notified and emergency responders were not notified. Dunn said the man got up and left in that instance, later reporting he didn’t want to upset the class, but ended up spending a week in the hospital.

Despite its challenges, School Committee members praised the program.

School Committee member Brian Castellanos said the enrichment program could create a pathway for success.  

School Committee member Jared Nicholson said school officials talked in the beginning of the school year about a mission to support adults and students.

The program gives adults an opportunity to support themselves by finding a new job, which would lead to more stable homes and more opportunities economically, he said.

“This is a great service to the city and community,” said Michael Satterwhite, another member of the panel.


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