When three Dominican Sisters of Peace opened the doors to the Center in 2002, their mission was simple: to help underserved, adult immigrants assimilate and find jobs by improving their ability to communicate in English.
“Education has always been one of the primary ministries of the Dominican Sisters,” explains Sr. Maryann Lawlor, OP, a Dominican Sister of Peace and former Director of Springs Learning Center when it opened in 2002. She notes that her congregation of Sisters has provided educational and pastoral services in New Haven since 1901 in elementary, secondary, and college programs. “Recognizing the growing adult literacy and ESL needs here in New Haven, the Dominican Sisters opened Springs Learning Center to continue our educational mission in the Fair Haven area,” she added.
Sr. Maryann and her team (Sr. Mary Ellen Boyle, OP, and Sr. Barbara DeCrosta, OP) secured a facility, furnished it with educational materials and equipment, recruited and trained a volunteer staff in various methods of instruction and designed an instructional program. Learners find that Springs Learning Center is not just about memorizing vocabulary and pronunciation. The immersive program techniques help the Center’s learners prepare for citizenship exams, find jobs, and strengthen the conversational skills they need to become effective communicators in their daily lives.
Today the Center is flourishing under the direction of Sr. Margaret Mary Kennedy, OP. Through the hard work and dedication of a few staff members and a group of wonderful volunteer tutors, the Center provides a holistic literacy program with one-to-one tutoring in a caring and peaceful environment, serving an average of 100 learners each year.
“It is an honor to work with such hard-working tutors and learners,” said Sr. Margaret Mary. “Volunteer tutors are the backbone of the Springs Learning Center and each one works intensively with just one student, spending at least an hour a week in a one-on-one learning environment.”
Along with its focus on ESL, the Springs Learning Center also offers instruction in reading, writing, and other basic education areas. The Center attempts to challenge the cycle of poverty, improving the quality of life for and empowering the individual adult learner.
The goals of the center are:
- to provide individual tutoring in basic literacy skills in English as a second language and citizenship
- to build job readiness
- to develop self-esteem for adult learners.
The volunteer tutors come from many local Catholic parishes and from the former St. Mary’s High School, with an average of 45 to 55 individuals volunteering each year. The Center provides necessary training and materials to tutors, who are then asked to commit to tutoring an individual learner for one hour a week for a year.
The Center is located in the rectory of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, 115 Blatchley Avenue, in the Fair Haven section of New Haven.
The Springs Learning Center is funded by a combination of donated services, corporate and civic donations, individual gifts, and grants from foundations and other organizations.