Holyoke, Massachusetts is a former paper mill town with a high poverty and a teen pregnancy rate nearly five times the state average, reports Josh Kenworthy. The Care Center in Holyoke began in 1986 as a social services provider but now also offers “free alternative schooling coupled with comprehensive wraparound supports” so that roughly 100 young mothers can their high school equivalency exam each year.
“Young mothers with get the same supports,” says Kenworthy, “including transportation, health care, child care, and counseling – designed to allow them to focus on one thing that will keep them and their children out of poverty: a degree.”
Last August, The Care Center partnered with Bard College to launch the first nationally accredited “microcollege,” a selective two-year liberal arts associate’s degree program that admits about 20 Care Center high school graduates each semester.
It’s an education-first approach to ending poverty and one that provides a liberal arts education to low-income, single moms, helping them to refute the notion that they don’t have the intelligence or drive to be successful academically.