ADULT LEARNING CENTER SHOWS KNOWLEDGE IS A LIFELONG PURSUIT

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METHUEN — You’re never too old to learn.

Just ask the 160 students currently enrolled and the 234 on the waiting list for the Methuen Adult Learning Center.

“We don’t need to recruit. It’s basically all word of mouth,” said Shirley Callan, supervisor of adult basic education.”I feel bad when we can’t take someone.”

To help with the waiting list, The Adult Learning Center has formed a partnership with the Nevins Memorial Library’s Literacy Program. Those on the waiting list will attend that program until a spot opens up.

The Adult Learning Center, located at the Currier School, 36 Boylston St., Methuen, offers General Educational Development (GED) and English as a second language (ESL) classes for Methuen residents.

Sandy Martineau, who is in her second year of GED classes, said the program has not just taught her general education but self-confidence as well.

“I didn’t know anything, I was so scared. I thought I was too old, but I wanted my GED,” said Martineau, 52. “When I first came in I was a person that wouldn’t be standing here talking. No, it’s definitely a different story; I have confidence in myself.”

The GED and ESL programs offer three levels of classes — beginning, intermediate and advanced.

Josue Agustin, 24, arrived in the United States two and a half years ago from Guatemala. He immediately realized he needed to learn how to speak English.

“I wanted a job and they needed someone to speak both English and Spanish,” Agustin said. “When they asked me the question I didn’t answer because I didn’t know one word.”

Agustin said when he first moved to Methuen, the only word he knew was hello. Now he is in the advanced level of ESL.

“I’m very confident now. I feel very proud of myself,” Agustin said. “Before I was afraid to answer wrong; now I am more comfortable that people can correct me.”

Agustin actually had to learn two languages when he moved here, English and Spanish, even though Spanish is his native language.

“I learned my Spanish in my country, but here I had to learn more,” Agustin said. “There are so many words that have different meanings than what I know. So I had to learn Spanish and English at the same time.”

Agustin, who lives with his two uncles Rold and Olverio, said they try and speak both languages when they are home.

“We try to speak both languages because we want to improve our English,” Agustin said. “If they don’t know something, they ask me. If I don’t know something, I ask them. We help each other, because together we can learn more.”

The Adult Learning Center, which was started 16 years ago by Callan, is mostly funded by the Massachusetts Department of Education and Methuen Public Schools.

Callan said the school tests everyone that comes in and places them accordingly in the program.

“We have some students that can’t even say their names in English when they first come to us,” Callan said. “Some of our students have moved through all three levels of the GED and ESL classes.”

The learning doesn’t stop with GED and ESL.

The Methuen Adult Learning Center has formed a partnership with Valley Career Works, which holds monthly workshops at the school, to help in various areas such as filling out an application, resume writing and interviewing skills.

The Methuen Adult Learning Center takes pride in seeing their students succeed, in and out of the classroom.

“We build self-confidence here,” Callan said.

All classes are free, but the space is limited. For more information on class availability, call 978-681-9407 or 978-681-1347.

Have a story idea? Gayle Simone can be reached at 978-970-4838 or by e-mail at gsimone@thevalleydispatch.com.