(Hartford, CT) Communicating used to be a daily struggle for 29-year-old Freily Medina when she first arrived in Hartford from the Dominican Republic five years ago. She relied heavily on bilingual people to help her talk to doctors, run basic errands or simply navigate her new surroundings.
Determined to learn English, Medina went to CREC Transition to Employment Services (TES) where English language and GED courses are offered free of charge. She enrolled in Family Literacy ESL, a beginner-level English class, and took advantage of the free Early Childhood Education classes at their safe and secure onsite facility for her two young children.
“For me, this program is like my light in this country because I learned English here. When I have appointment for my kids, I don’t need interpreter. If I need to call on the phone, I can call. I feel very happy with me because my English is not a barrier for me anymore. For me, this open doors,” said Medina, who has since completed Intermediate and Advanced English classes, obtained her driver's license and citizenship, enrolled her oldest daughter at the CREC River Street school tuition free through a scholarship, and will be graduating from Manchester Community College with a Medical Office Assistant certificate in June.
CREC Transition to Employment Services is a subset of CREC Community Education, which has been around for more than 20 years. They not only offer English and GED classes free of charge, but also provide much needed resources and supplies such as winter gear, hygiene products, back packs, clothing, diapers, baby formula, Thanksgiving meals, Christmas toys, furniture, and much more, all donated from local organizations.
In addition, participants receive hot and nutritious meals from House of Bread and professional attire from Dress for Success for job interviews and career fairs. Perhaps most important of all, students are provided with the highest levels of holistic support and best-in-class case management services, which are key in helping meet their needs, allowing them to stay focused on completing their education.
The office’s new location is on the third floor of the Coltsville Armory Dome building at 55 Van Dyke Avenue in Hartford. The new facility has been recently remodeled, and is equipped with a large conference room, Smart classrooms, student cafeteria, family room, and is a certified Pearson testing site.
Medina said there are few places like CREC TES where someone could find so many services, great classes, and an amazingly supportive staff all in one place.
“For me, this is perfect place if you want to grow and start over in this country,” she said.
Currently, students can enroll in Family Literacy ESL, Intermediate English, Advanced English or GED classes. The Advanced English Class is combined with a Medical Office Assistant certificate program at Manchester Community College. All free of charge.
“We are the bridge for people. While many of our students had careers in their native countries, we help them develop their English skills and guide them in continuing their professions here,” said Sixmaritt Pagán-Peña, Program Coordinator and Case Manager at CREC Transition to Employment Services.
Pagán-Peña said she brings in representatives from Central Connecticut State University to advise students on the steps they need to take to transfer credits from their country of origin or the classes needed to, for example, practice law or accounting here in the U.S.
English and GED classes are offered in fall and spring semesters. Students who complete the advanced English class and go on to the medical office assistant course at Manchester Community College also get help finding an internship, which sometimes leads to a fulltime job.
Pagán-Peña keeps photos that former students send her or post on Facebook – a photo of a student’s green card, another of an ID badge from a student’s new job at Charter Oak Health Center, a picture of a student’s name engraved on a stethoscope.
“I absolutely love my job!” says Pagán-Peña, adding that she gets energized seeing students’ progress and growth throughout program. After spending just a few minutes with her, it quickly becomes very obvious that this is her passion and that her students’ success is what drives her every day.
Goodwill Industries recently presented a Community Partner of the Year Award to CREC Transition to Employment Services for their success in helping people obtain their GEDs. TES has been managing a GED program in partnership with Goodwill for about five years. TES attributes this successful partnership to the kindred spirits and mutual goals demonstrated by both organizations. CREC and the Goodwill organization share the same level of standards and expectations for serving the community.
Flor M. De Hoyos, Program Manager, had this to say: “We don’t do this work for awards or recognition. We do it because of our passion for improving our community and creating opportunities for others. We are very humbled by this award, and are forever grateful to Goodwill for their support and partnership.”
For more information, follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CREC.TES or call 860-509-3638.
The Capitol Region Education Council was established in 1966. Working with and for its member districts, CREC has developed a wide array of cost-effective and high-quality programs and services to meet the educational needs of children and adults in the region. CREC brings nearly five decades of experience in education, regional collaboration, and operations to provide innovative strategies and products that address the changings needs of school districts and their students, corporations, non-profits, and individual professions. CREC regularly serves 36 towns in Greater Hartford, offering more than 120 programs to more than 150,000 students annually. CREC manages more than 35 facilities throughout the area, including 17 interdistrict magnet schools. More information about CREC and CREC’s award-winning schools is available at www.crec.org.