“Education has always been one of the primary ministries of the Dominican Sisters,” explains Sr. Maryann Lawlor, OP, a Dominican Sister of Peace and Director of Springs Learning Center since its foundation in 2002. She notes that her congregation of Sisters has provided educational and pastoral services in New Haven, CT, since 1901 in elementary, secondary, and college programs. “Eight years before this Center opened, we had established a highly successful literacy ministry in Columbus, OH,” she continues. “Recognizing the growing adult literacy and ESL needs here in New Haven, the Dominican Sisters opened Springs Learning Center in 2002 to continue our educational mission in the Fair Haven area.”
Sr. Maryann and her administrative team of 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.
Today the Center is flourishing. 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.
The volunteer tutors at the Springs Learning Center 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.
While there is a special emphasis on English as a Second Language (ESL), the Springs Learning Center provides an integrated program which includes instruction in reading and writing. The overall goal of the Center is to provide individual tutoring in basic literacy skills, to build job readiness, and to develop self-esteem for adult learners through talents and resources of the Dominican Sisters and others in the local community.
“Many of our adult learners have accomplished the goals for which they began taking class,” shares Sr. Maryann. “Several have become citizens, many have been with the program for sets of five year periods, some have continued on to attend advanced educational classes – some have even opened their own businesses.”
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.