School of the Week: Adult Education- East Campus

This service-oriented school nurtures not only the educational success of its adult students, but scores of their children across DPS

It’s a family affair.

The teaching and learning that takes place by the instructors and adults in the GED and Adult Basic Education programs at DPS’ Adult Education Center East impact not only those participants, but also the more than 200 Detroit Public Schools K-12 students whose parents and grandparents are enrolled here.

Many of the adult learners are doing it for their kids.

David Alexander is at the Center every day, all year. “I’m serious about completing this. I have grandkids and they can mouth off a lot about what they don’t want to do.” Through his studies and upon completion, he intends to be an even stronger role model for them. Never before a computer user, the 64-year-old had no previous experience on computers, but now describes himself as “kind of savvy” as he works in a classroom with six other students, completing Reading 180 and Math programs as well as research and book reports.

Twenty-nine-year-old Dana Mitchell has two children enrolled and one yet to enter Thurgood Marshall Elementary-Middle School. “My focus is to graduate, go on to medical school and become an RN or medical assistant,” says Mitchell. “I plan to support my family of three children and our lifestyle….I’m going to spoil them rotten.”

Three of Darnisha Smith’s children graduated before her. As she awaits her program completion, the new participant in the district’s inaugural ‘Earn and Learn’ initiative says, “My children will see my progress.” Earn and Learn, launched this winter, provides Smith, several other Adult Ed East students and others an opportunity to return to school, receive a GED and become employed by the district. “It’s a great thing for me,” Smith says.

Some are doing it for a parent.

Student Reginald Landers, showing off a successful 166 score on one of his tests, envisions the day when three members of his family—he, his father and his sister—will all walk across the stage together to graduate. His goal to get the GED is rooted in wanting to reduce some of his hardworking father’s current, sole financial responsibility for the family. “I want to relieve some of his stress and allow him to relax a bit.”

Other family members are doing it together, such as 19-year-old Kayla and Shayla Higgins, one of two sets of twins currently enrolled in the building which is just around the block from their home. With only two months to go toward program completion, Kayla is completing an algebra assignment and Shayla a Science project in the same Adult Basic Education classroom where student and DPS parent Dana Mitchell is studying Spanish.

This school for adults ultimately has a vital role in the traditional K-12 educational program across the district. Overall, 75% of the Adult Ed East Center’s student body are parents or grandparents of other DPS students.

“I want to know everybody.”

Contributing to the family atmosphere of the pristine, former Richard Elementary School facility, with its well-lit classrooms and shiny hallway floors, Principal Leonard Samborski quickly demonstrates that he knows each of his students’ personal stories and defines his role as a caring and deeply interested partner in their success.

“It’s part of developing a positive relationship with them,” he states. “They have to have a level of trust. They have been disappointed a lot before arriving here.” Samborski also knows the students families, counselors and sometimes their probation officers.

The principal greets the school’s administrative assistant, Demetrius Herron who himself completed this program in June 2011. Herron now fills a number of roles at the school and uses his own experience regarding how the program works to assist others, such as stepping up to handle all enrollments this past year while the school’s counselor position remained unfilled.

Samborski describes the changes that he and the school’s staff have seen in Herron since he himself enrolled here. “He has matured. Now he has goals. Along the way he got married, had children, and will go to college.”

Samborski attributes the extremely tidy facility to the pride that its program participants demonstrate.

There’s nothing to it but to do it.

There are examples of support and encouragement everywhere, including on many boards, posters and signs. One reminds, “I can do it.” Another, “There’s nothing to it but to do it.”

Every need is supported, every service provided

Unlike the twins who walk around the corner to come to the school, most Adult Education-East students ride the bus, and the school provides bus tickets “by the thousands,” according to Samborski. Some 700 tickets and bus transfers are distributed weekly.

Computer skills are taught because they are now essential with the new computer-based GED test. The school provides counseling and career coaching and like its sister institution on the city’s west side has a large, comfortable student study lounge. A learning lab is provided based on a partnership with Dominican Literacy and tutors are provided through a partnership with Reading Works. An Institute for Population Health staff member, Tahira Khalid, is onsite two-three days each week to provide a wide array of health and parenting services and, in general, “to soften the harshness of the system.”

Adult Ed East services students 18 years or older with high school completion, GED Preparation classes as well as A.B.E. (Adult Basic Education) classes in language arts, social studies, math and science.

Something you didn’t know…

The school also sponsors English as a Second Language programs offsite in two vibrant classrooms located in the basement of Midtown Detroit’s International Institute. Teacher Martha Dage presides in one class with some 40 students enrolled with a half dozen different native languages including Haitian, Dominican, Yemeni, Chinese and Nigerian. “It’s fun,” she says. “I love English because it’s a very forgiving language to teach.”

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