Reconnecting and Intersecting within Adult Education

The education and career path for adult learners is often nonlinear. Like a spiral staircase, you might find yourself coming back to the same point on a circle — to the same organization, or to the same people — but on a different plane than before. Similarly, as adult educators, we can never predict where our paths will intertwine with learners’ paths over time.

In August, Boston Globe correspondent Adam Sennott highlighted seven single mothers who graduated college through the Jeremiah Program, a nonprofit that offers opportunities and tools for young mothers’ successful transition to higher education. One of the most valuable elements of the program is the collective empowerment found among the women in the program. He spoke with one mother, Lizeth Montenegro, 29, who said this of her time at Endicott College:

“It was very useful, because having all those moms in the class with me, we [were] able to bounce ideas off each other,” Montenegro said. “And if somebody didn’t know something, another mother might know something and we [would] help each other out.

“And I think that was the whole idea of having us all in that same class,” Montenegro said, “Even though we’re there learning, to get our education, we’re also there to give each other support and help each other out.”

Underscoring the spiral of connections, Adam Sennott himself is a graduate of a program to prepare adult learners to transition to college at the Cambridge Community Learning Center’s (CLC) Bridge Program. This program was part of the cluster of World Education’s 25 ABE-to-college transition programs that launched the National College Transition Network (NCTN). This demonstration project, funded by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, set the stage for countless other initiatives that would end up serving students much like himself, and much like his interviewees in his recent Globe article.

Today, NCTN is in its first year of College Success for Single Mothers, a three-year project funded by ECMC Foundation. The project is assisting eight community colleges to identify the needs of single mother students on campus and develop and expand key practices and services to enhance their success in college and careers. 

With a powerful motivation to improve the lives of their families and set a positive example for their children, many single mothers pursue education and training that will lead to better-paying work and a meaningful career.

Over and over again, we find ourselves inspired by adult learners like Adam and the parenting students of Jeremiah Program and the dedicated educators we help them on their paths. Adam’s piece reminds us of the ways in which we keep returning to this powerful community of adult learners and educators.