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The City of Lawrence designated the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, Inc. (GLCAC) and it’s Community Partnerships for Children Program to serve as the fiscal agent and lead agency to prepare and submit a proposal. Lawrence subsequently received one of the five grant awards for this pilot program which was to be called Pathways to Family Success.
The program was originally a partnership among four organizations (City of Lawrence Mayor’s Office, Lawrence Public Schools, GLCAC, and Community Day Care, Inc.). The number of participating organizations expanded each year. By 2012, the Pathways Partnership included a total of twenty-two organizations including youth and adult education providers and social service agencies, as well as representatives of local and state government. Maureen Nimmo, Director of the Lawrence Public Library, recently shared her thoughts: “I was very happy to be involved and to have my building involved in Pathways. It has been invaluable to have a setup where the numerous not-for-profit and literacy groups in our community could meet together regularly and share ideas. Pathways created a road for collaborative efforts instead of endless recreating of wheels.”
Three major Pathway activities evolved over the years: the annual Family Literacy Day, the Leahy Family Literacy Program and the Reducing Poverty through Literacy Campaign.
The first Family Literacy Day was held in 2004 at the Lawrence Public Library as part of Family Literacy Month in November. The event included a Resource and Information Fair for parents and many activities for children and parents to share including Celebrity Readers, Arts & Crafts, Interactive Music Activities, Games and Prizes. Over a dozen organizations shared resources to make the event a success. Each year the event got bigger and better. By November 2011, the event outgrew the space available at the Lawrence Public Library, and Family Literacy Day was moved to the Lawrence Adult Education Program’s space at the Oliver School. It was a cold and rainy November evening in 2011 but that did not stop 20 organizations and 400+ parents and children from enjoying all the activities offered.
Pathways’ Leahy Family Literacy Program began during the 2004-05 school year. The program was a true model of collaboration. The Lawrence Public Schools (LPS) provided the use of classroom space at the Leahy Elementary School. The LPS Adult Education
Program provided the instructors for the parents attending English as a Second Language classes. The Leahy School recruited families and provided attendance follow-up services. GLCAC, through the Pathways grant and other funding sources, supplied instructors for the children’s academic enrichment and homework assistance classes as well as a facilitator to manage program services and collect data. Classes were held two evenings per week throughout the school year. The LPS supplied nutritious snacks for the children during these evening sessions. Organizations in the Pathways Partnership provided monthly informational and workshop for the parents. As the years passed, the impact of the program became evident. Patricia M. Mariano, who was Principal of the Leahy School during seven of the Leahy program’s eight years, commented: “As Principal of the Leahy School in Lawrence, I was fortunate to be a partner in the Pathways Program. For the past 8 years many of the Leahy School families benefited from Literacy classes offered at the school. Additionally, families were made aware of community services and agencies providing services which made their assimilation into this community a smooth one. There have been so many success stories as a result of this program. Families became first time homeowners and new employment opportunities presented themselves as a result of English acquisition. The growth exhibited by the students has been remarkable. Data from the last school year indicated that students participating in the program doubled their academic growth as compared to a control group.”
Glorimar Maldonado, a current participant in the Leahy Family Literacy program, moved to Lawrence from Puerto Rico in the fall of 2011. Two of her children attend the Leahy School. Soon after her children began classes, Glorimar enrolled in the Pathways to Family Success Program. According to the family literacy staff, Glorimar and her children have made extraordinary progress in the program. Her children are speaking English and doing well in school. Glorimar shared the following: “The program is good, it has taught me many words” and “to be a better mom” and “helped my children with homework”. She also said that “I didn’t know anyone in Lawrence” when she moved here and now “I have friends from the program”.
The Reducing Poverty through Literacy Campaign began as a result of a report released in February 2010 by Massachusetts KIDS COUNT and Massachusetts Citizens for Children. The report was titled child poverty in Massachusetts: a tale of three cities – Lawrence,
New Bedford and Springfield. GLCAC and the Pathways Coordinator were among the contributors to this publication. The Pathways partners felt that the information in the report was of great significance and decided to create a power point presentation as a way of sharing the highlights of the report and making the connection between poverty and low literacy/low education levels. Emily Hoffman, GLCAC’s coordinator for Lawrence Pathways to Family Success, has since done that power point presentation at many agencies and for many groups throughout the City as a means of heightening awareness of the connection between third grade reading levels and the potential for being a high school drop out.
In the spring of 2012, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Adult and Community Learning Services Division (DESE) determined that the Pathways pilot project had achieved its goal and the four remaining Pathways to Family Success grants would end. After nine years of operation, numerous lessons had been learned, many of which are highlighted in the Pathways to Family Success Final Evaluation Report commissioned byDESE. In the section on Adult Outcomes, the report stated that the Lawrence site had the highest proportion (84%) of adult students that made learning gains.
During the final months of the program, Pathways Partners continued to meet. As a group, they made the commitment to keep key aspects of the program going even though state funding would end. The partners will continue to meet on a quarterly basis; they have renamed the group Community Pathways Lawrence. They intend to keep the Pathways list serve active in order to continue sharing information and resources. The GLCAC’s Community and Family Support Center will assume responsibility for maintaining the Pathways website, www.DestinationServices.org and all the partners will continue to support Family Literacy Day. The family literacy model replicated by Pathways at the South Lawrence East Middle School as part of a federal Full Service Community Schools grant received by the GLCAC in 2010 will continue to provide services. And, last but certainly not least, the Leahy School is determined to continue its very successful Family Literacy Program. Although Patricia Mariano retired this past year as Principal of the Leahy School, she continues to be involved with the Family Literacy Program and stated: “The state has recognized this program as a model for family literacy. Emily Hoffman was an integral part of this program. Emily shared my passion for family literacy. Throughout the years, Emily continued to seek private funding when the program was in jeopardy due to state cutbacks. I sincerely appreciate everything Emily has done for the Leahy School Family Literacy Program.”
Comments from another Pathways Partner: “I arrived back in Lawrence after a hiatus of 22 years and became Executive Director at Notre Dame Education Center. People began advising me to see Emily and get involved with Pathways if I wanted to learn the city. I found her to be a fountain of information! Pathways has seemed like a glue to me that held us all together. It created a forum for us in adult education, early childhood education and social agencies to meet, share what is happening in our programs and work on common timely projects together. The list serve gave us the gift of a great communication vehicle to publicize events and programs in order to encourage our clients to attend.” Sr. Eileen Burns, SNDdeN.
 Center for Social Policy, John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, UMass Boston, PATHWAYS TO FAMILY SUCCESS Final Evaluation Report, April 11, 2012. Prepared for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Adult and Community Learning Services Division.
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