Humanities Rock

004_Humanities-Rock1

Humanities Rock

The Community Adolescent Resource
247 Cabot Street
Holyoke, MA 01040
Phone: 413.532.2900
Fax: 413.532.1250
E-Mail: ateschner@carecenter.org
URL: www.carecenterholyoke.org

Focus: Humanities

Annual Number Participating: 100

Ages: High School

Annual Budget: $120,000.00

Partners: Bard College Clemente Course in the Humanities, Enchanted Circle Theater, Greenfield Community College, Holyoke Community College, Smith College Poetry Center

Funders: Ceres Foundation, Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation, Massachusetts Cultural Council, Women's Fund of Western Massachusetts

At a school in western Massachusetts, students sit in a small, seminar-style humanities class discussing such perplexing questions as the nature of responsibility and the meaning of love as portrayed in the works of Plato, Shakespeare, and Chekhov. Down the hall, students in a poetry class study the writings of poets as varied as Pablo Neruda and Robert Frost as a prelude to crafting their own poems, some of which will be published in Nautilus, the school’s well-regarded anthology.

While this might sound like the curriculum of an elite, private prep school, these offerings are actually part of an unusual humanities program at The Community Adolescent Resource and Education (Care) Center, a nonprofit alternative-education program aimed at working-class teen mothers who dropped out of school. “One of the things about living in poverty is that your world gets smaller and your sense of possibility diminishes,” explains Executive Director Anne Teschner. “We want the students to see that they are part of something larger—that they are part of the human experience and that they’re entitled to take part in the public dialogue.”

That’s not to say that The Care Center, based in the distressed mill town of Holyoke, ignores students’ more basic needs. Mornings are devoted to high school equivalency courses, as well as nutrition, health, and parenting classes. But in the afternoon, the school offers arts and humanities electives designed to feed the students’ souls.

Although the humanities courses are rigorous, the professors, who are drawn from area colleges, organize the material into themes, such as “true love,” with special appeal to teenage girls. Because many of the students are from Puerto Rican backgrounds, both the humanities and poetry classes include a generous sampling of works by Latino writers.

Assignments push the students to write more clearly, to think more deeply, to speak more persuasively, and—in the words of one professor—to “live with greater wisdom.” The Care Center’s humanities investment is paying off. Equipped with stronger academic skills and greater confidence in their intellectual abilities, an astonishing 85 percent of these former high school dropouts go on to college.