Lukas Flippo

Over a thousand education activists gathered in New Haven on Thursday to call for increased resources for adult learners.

According to the Connecticut Association of Adult and Continuing Education Center, one in six New Haven residents hold a high school diploma. On Thursday, CAACE hosted the march, which began on Columbus Avenue before moving across Church Street and culminated on the New Haven Green. After the march, the group hosted a community resource fair on the Green and listened to a medley of speeches from local leaders. Over 80 groups — from local non-profits to health care providers — participated in the event. One such agency was the Cornell Hill Health Center, which checked vitals for attendees on the Green.

“We are taking a positive approach and we’re not blaming the victim,” said Veronica Douglas, family advocate and community resource director of the New Haven Adult & Continuing Education Center. “We understand that the struggle is real for our students — struggles like lack of employment, lack of daycare, and poverty… Many of those issues are not their fault. We understand the struggle is real and want to continue to put wrap-around solutions in place.”

Dwight Hall helped publicize the event, and the University partly funded the community resource fair. This is the first time that Dwight hall has coordinated with CAACE.

CAACE hopes to continue this partnership with Yale by fostering a relationship between New Haven students and Yale students, Douglas said. Ly added that Dwight Hall recognizes the importance of adult education in breaking down barriers to opportunity.

“We are excited for what’s to come in this new partnership. Although we do not know [exactly what] lies on the horizon ahead, we hope to continue supporting the great work of the New Haven Adult & Continuing Education Center through student volunteer and fellowship programs,” Dwight Hall coordinator Serena Ly ’20 said.

Nearly 30 percent of New Haveners struggle to read, according to Michelle Bonara, who is the director of New Haven Adult Education. Many of these individuals now have children, and increased access to adult education can have positive effects across generations, Bonara said. Douglas added that by returning to school, many parents can inspire their children to continue pursuing their studies.

According Douglas, CAACE has worked on creating a public image that encourages adult students to understand that their struggles are common. They have created promotional videos and put up billboards pushing that message.

“The first goal is to get more people going through the doors,” said Douglas. “No longer do we want to be that building near the flea market.”

New Haven is not the only city participating in initiatives geared to increase awareness around adult education. 20 of the 40 adult education centers in Connecticut met on the New Haven green to advocate for this cause. New Haven Mayor Toni Harp helped the group in planning the march.

“We’re looking [to create] awareness. We want to see an uptick in adult enrollment across Connecticut,” said Bonara. “Overtime we’re looking to make a real dent in the alarming number of individuals across the state.”

CAACE also has an English as a Second Language program that helps individuals from 83 different countries improve their speaking and writing skills. Over 40 million adults in the US have low literacy, including 20 percent of those with high school diplomas.

Kelly Wei | kelly.wei@yale.edu