|By G. Michael Dobbs|
HOLYOKE Sixteen women marked a milestone in their lives on June 30 when they graduated from the Care Center.
The Holyoke-based program is the only one of its kind in the area: an alternative education designed for pregnant and parenting teens.
Education Director Ana Rodriguez explained to Reminder Publications that the average student takes about two years to go through the self-paced course. The students take classes in preparation for the GED and college prep. There is on-site daycare, assistance with the transition to higher education and door to door transportation.
Annually, the program serves more than 140 students.
Rodriguez said that 80 to 85 percent of the students go on to higher education.
She said there is a consistent need for the program and no other in the region is dedicated to pregnant or parenting teens.
"We are a very customized program," she said. "We are able to meet their needs."
The program has not been hit by the lack of finances many other area non-profits suffer. Rodriguez said the agency is funded through a variety of sources state, federal and private and has been able to meet its financial goals.
The women who graduated were Antonia Acevedo, Virgen Barta, Iris Joan Colon, Yezenia Gomez, Jannette Hernandez, Jessica Jodoin, Jessica Lopez, Suzanne Mendre, Silkia Miranda, Loribeth Ortiz, Samantha Palmer, Iraida Perez, Heisha Rodriguez, Jashira Rodriguez, Desiree Vega, and Ruth Roman.
Mayor Michael Sullivan said, "The Care Center is changing the course of Holyoke. The center's leadership on excellence in education and family support is a real force in this city. The Care Center is a valuable asset to Holyoke."