In March, approximately 50 students and 15 staff representing nine Greater Hartford adult education programs attended a first-of-its-kind Adult Learner Conference at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford. Designed to connect adult learners with career exploration and readiness activities that complement their classroom work, the event gave students the opportunity to make personal connections, explore career options, and learn about next steps along the path of lifelong learning.
Sponsored by Move Up! A partnership for Adult Learning, in collaboration with the Voices of Connecticut Adult Learners (VOCAL), the event covered three distinct themes: college preparation, career/job exploration, and school/work/life balance. The event also featured an exhibition with a variety of nonprofits, community colleges, and other groups serving adult learners.
Move UP! received a grant of $420,000 from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving to continue its work of developing and integrating a more coordinated system among adult literacy, workforce development, and post-secondary education providers in the Greater Hartford Region.
Those in attendance appreciated the opportunity to interact with other students from the area and to hear from leaders in the field about how to transition from the classroom to higher education, job training and the workforce.
According to one student, "...the conference met my expectations. I feel more empowered than I expected to be. I learned to set SMART goals and stick to them. When you accomplish them, celebrate yourself."
Another attendee commented, "I met new people and I am now armed with more information to do more of what I need to continue educating myself."
"Our goal is to accelerate progress toward full literacy in the Hartford Region," said Move UP!'s director, Sarah Dudzic. "This funding from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving gives us the opportunity to be a catalyst for change at the intersection of those formerly 'siloed' systems, so that ultimately, more people in our communities can reach economic self-sufficiency. In the last couple of years, we have moved from simply being a coalition of providers to a group that seeks innovative solutions to the barriers that prevent individuals and families from achieving full literacy and economic self-sufficiency,"
Launched in 2011 as a vehicle to support collaboration, infuse national best practices, and convene the many providers that touch the lives of adult learners, Move UP! has become a regional leader for systems change.
The Adult Learner Conference is just one example of how Move UP! has brought together adult education, workforce training, and other community-based providers to support better outcomes for adults.
"Move Up! continues to demonstrate the ability to provide background services and supports to adult education and training programs throughout the region," said Maryanne Pascone, Capitol Region Education Council's (CREC) director of the Division of Community Education. "Move Up! has done an excellent job of bringing various groups together to better serve adult education students and has created opportunities for organizations to develop new partnerships and strengthen existing ones. We truly value the work that Move Up! is doing to increase awareness of literacy issues throughout the region."
In addition to its systems-building adult literacy work, Move Up! currently serves as the lead agency for the Greater Hartford Two Generation Pilot Project for School and Workforce Readiness. The project supports 30 East Hartford and Hartford low-income families with young children by helping to remove personal and structural barriers that can stand in the way of adults achieving successful long-term employment. The organization is also receiving national attention and presenting on its ground-breaking work. Move Up! also is one of the partner organizations involved with the Hartford Foundation's Career Pathways initiative which assists residents with limited literacy and employment skills in the Capitol Region, by providing a broad range of coordinated services to obtain jobs to support themselves and their families.
"The Hartford Foundation is proud to support the work of Move Up! which has made tremendous progress in the effort to build a cohesive, collaborative system for adult learners," said Hartford Foundation community investments officer, Dawn Grant. "This work aligns with the Foundation's strategic focus on family economic security and shares our emphasis on building partnerships and collaborations to create systemic changes that improve opportunities for all residents of Greater Hartford."
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding communities. In 2015, the Foundation celebrated ninety years of grantmaking in the Greater Hartford region, made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations. It has awarded grants of $687 million since its founding in 1925. For more information about the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.