Commentary: A pathway to transforming lives

There is a special community in Lynn that is unknown to many people. It’s been around for more than 40 years and has served thousands of Lynn area residents. Formerly called Operation Bootstrap it is now known as Pathways Adult Education and Training Inc.

It is a community of hundreds of students, scores of employees, 50 volunteers, thousands of graduates and hundreds of supporters. It has had a major impact on the lives of countless Lynn families by helping them learn English, obtain a high school equivalency, get into a training program that leads to a credential, develop job readiness skills, get a better job, go to college, develop confidence and a stronger sense of self-worth.

This year our graduation ceremony is taking place on June 13 at Lynn Classical High School auditorium. More than 60 people will be recognized for their achievements in learning English, obtaining a GED, becoming a U.S. citizen, or moving on to college or a new job.

This is not insignificant. This is transformative. This is life changing. So over the next few months Pathways is going to be reaching out to the Lynn community to tell you about who we are and what we are doing to help Lynn families and the Lynn economy.

We offer free classes in English classes for beginning, intermediate and two higher levels. We offer free Adult Basic Education classes leading to a high school equivalency credential. We offer free access to occupational training programs like the Health Tech Training Program in partnership with Lynn Tech and the Red Cross, and an Early Childhood Teacher Training Program in partnership with North Shore Community College and others.

Over the past few years Pathways has risen to be among the top performing adult education programs in Massachusetts. Last year a higher percentage of Pathways students made more measurable skills gains than students at any of the other programs in the state. This year we are on course to do that again.

Sovannary, a student from Cambodia, began learning English with us in She worked diligently at her education while working a full-time job. And this year she received her GED, got a better paying job and is planning to take classes at NSCC in the fall.

Quendia, who is from Guatemala, came to Pathways to learn English in 2008. She stopped coming when her son was born but returned when he started school. Last year she completed our highest-level English course and with the help of Pathways staff applied for a Bookkeeping certificate program at North Shore Community College.

After successfully completing the program she then came to work at Pathways. Recently she got a full-time job working for the MassHire North Shore Career Center located at the Lynn Housing Authority. “Pathways gave me the support and the information I needed to succeed and move forward with my life,” said Quendia.

Amarilis came to Pathways this year to work toward her high school equivalency. She recently passed all five tests and says, “I want to say thank you to my teacher because with her enthusiasm she gave me the strength and motivation I needed to get up every day and say I am going to school today. My advisor was also key in motivating me by telling me that I was going to be fine because he believed in me. Please keep doing this good work, making people like me take that next step ahead in our lives,” said Amarilis.

Chris came to Pathways this year in our GED program. He passed all the tests and is now in an aeronautics training program. “You helped me find my way out of a dark place” he told his teacher.

“Ellie” was involved in gang life before coming to Pathways. She spent three years with us, perfected her math skills, recently received a Certified Nursing Assistant credential and plans to go on to nursing.

Hamid, who escaped genocide in Darfur, says about Pathways: “Thank you for supporting us, because of you we have learned a lot. You make us the best students in the world!”

Whether they are English language learners or native English speakers seeking to develop the skills needed to get into occupational or vocational training, or to get into college or to get a better job Pathways students are truly remarkable people. Dedicated, hard working, highly motivated and grateful, these salt of the earth folks deserve our respect and our support.

We hope over the coming months Lynn residents, employers, business people, elected officials, civic, religious and community leaders will come to better understand the work that Pathways is doing in Lynn and will come to value and support our work.

Edward Tirrell is the CEO of Pathways Inc., located in the Clock Tower Business Center on the Lynnway.

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