Springs Learning Center Celebrates 15 Years
Center Focuses on Helping Immigrants Succeed
New Haven, CT – On any given day at the Springs Learning Center in New Haven, you might see a local banker tutoring a woman in traditional mid-eastern dress, a Latino man working with a retired nurse to learn English, or a group of learners practicing their English conversational skills. Fifteen years after opening their doors, the Dominican Sisters of Peace Springs Learning Center has become a hub for local immigrants who want to improve their language skills and create a brighter future for themselves and their families.
When three Dominican Sisters of Peace opened the doors to the Springs Learning Center in 2002, their mission was simple – to provide education, which is a primary ministry of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, and to help underserved adult immigrants assimilate and find jobs by improving their ability to communicate in English.
“Our goal is to change lives,” said Sr. Maryann Lawlor, OP, Director of the Springs Learning Center. “We welcome every one – any nationality, religion, adult age, and level of ability. All we ask is that everyone who comes is ready to learn.”
“We see such a change in the lives of those who come to the Learning Center,” Sr. Maryann said.
She tells the stories of some of the lives that were changed by the Center with the pride of a parent. One Ukrainian learner improved his English skills enough to get a job as a senior systems analyst at Harvard. A married couple that fled persecution in their native Iran was able to obtain US citizenship after six months at the Center. And an immigrant from Mexico, who, with her husband, owns a local restaurant, can now chat with her customers, help her children with their homework and talk to their teachers.
The Springs Learning Center hosts about 100 adult learners annually from countries including South America, Central America, Iran, Mexico, India, China, and the Ukraine. Learners receive free materials and are partnered with a volunteer tutor that guides them through a structured learning program designed to increase reading, comprehension and speaking skills.
Learners find that Springs Learning Center is not just about memorizing vocabulary and pronunciation. The immersive program techniques helps 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.
Over the last 15 years, the staff and volunteer tutors have worked with more than 1,500 adult learners. Some attend for a year or two, leave and then come back; others have stayed for as long as 10 years. As a result, 30+ have become US citizens, some have used their new English skills to obtain their GEDs, 90% have obtained jobs or promotions, and all of the Springs Learning Center learners have seen an improvement in their lives as a result of their newly-attained communication skills.
Besides Sr. Maryann, the staff of the Springs Learning Center includes attendance administrator/tutor, Sr. Barbara DeCrosta, OP, and Sr. Mauryreen O’Brien, OP. who assists with various administrative duties. Together, these Dominican Sisters of Peace manage the Center and recruit and train volunteer tutors.
“Volunteer tutors are the backbone of the Springs Learning Center,” Sr. Maryann said. “Each tutor works intensively with just one student, spending at least an hour a week in a one-on-one learning environment.”
Many tutors teach at the center for years. The annual tutor and Learner celebration at the Springs Learning Center on June 5 will recognize volunteers with 5, 10, and 15 years of experience with the organization.
The Springs Learning Center is funded entirely by a combination of donated services, corporate and civic donations, individual gifts, and grants from foundations and other organizations.
With books, materials, and fixed costs like rent and utilities, the annual cost per learner at the Springs Learning Center is about $250.
“We are really looking forward to the upcoming ‘Great Give’ here in New Haven on May 2 and 3,” Sr. Maryann said. “This community has been so generous with its time and treasure.”
The Springs Learning Center is affiliated with The National Initiative for Literacy (NIFL), Pro Literacy Worldwide, Greater New Haven Literacy Coalition, and the Siena Learning Center (New Britain, CT).
To support the Springs Learning Center in the Great Give, go to https://thegreatgive.org/npo/dominican-sisters-of-peace-springs-learning-center
If you would like to volunteer or assist the Springs Learning Center contact them at 203-787-1025 or visit https://springslearning.org
The Dominican Sisters of Peace members of the pontifical Order of Preachers are a Congregation of vowed Catholic women who strive to live a life of peace-making. The Dominican Sisters of Peace are present in 22 states and two countries. The Sisters serve God’s people in many ways, including education, health care, spirituality, pastoral care, prison ministry, the arts, and care of creation. There are 487 sisters and over 500 lay associates affiliated with the congregation. For more information on the Dominican Sisters of Peace, visit their website at oppeace.org.