MANCHESTER — City aldermen have agreed to fund a request for an additional $5,000 from the Holy Cross Family Learning Center to assist efforts to keep its doors open.
The request from Janet Valeri, the center’s executive director, comes on the heels of a recent surge in donations, after a story ran in the New Hampshire Union Leader saying the center needed financial help to keep its doors open through at least the end of the school year and continue assisting newly arrived adult immigrants adjust to life in their new home.
Valeri said staff at the center — which teaches immigrants English as a second language while offering additional life-skills programs — were concerned it would close back in October, before an article and editorial reporting the center’s financial situation appeared in the Union Leader.
At the time Valeri, who has run the center for the last two years, said another $25,000 to $30,000 would cover costs needed to keep the center open through the end of the school year in mid-June.
“Within the last three weeks, we have raised just shy of $22,000,” wrote Valeri in an email to Mayor Joyce Craig. “The article in the Union Leader, along with the editorial quickly following it, assisted us a great deal. We are very close to our goal now. Within the last several weeks, I have also met with area organizations to provide them with coffee and conversation about the center, as well as providing a tour during school hours. These visits have been quite powerful, and I have established some strong relationships with folks around multi-year sponsorships.”
According to Valeri, those individuals include Tim Soucy at Catholic Medical Center, Steve Thiel at SNHU, Gale Dean at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Nick Soggu at SilverTech, Tom Champagne at St. Mary’s Bank, and Sr. Betty Bosch of the Felician Sisters.
“I have also been busy searching for, and writing grants,” wrote Valeri. “I have just submitted a $5,000 grant through The Agnes Lindsay Trust to support our summer programming. As the fiscal year winds down in the spring I will be looking for organizations to sponsor us with multi-year commitments focused on rooms at the center. Sponsors would have locations in the building that would bear their name/organization title for a set period of time.”
Valeri also reported the center’s program coordinator, Lisa Koehler, took another position at an auditing firm in Bedford in October. Valeri said she doesn’t intend to fill the position, but instead will take over her responsibilities with help from volunteer teachers and retired school principals she knows.
“This will save us additional money,” writes Valeri. “I am confident that this is manageable.”
Valeri said the center’s board is strengthening as well, with two potential members being nominated at the group’s next meeting on Dec. 4 — Elizabeth Green, CFO at The Way Home, and Attorney Christine Windler of Cronin, Bisson & Zalinsky.
“I’m proud that the city of Manchester has been able to support such a worthy program through federal CDBG funds in the past and in the current budget.,” wrote Craig in a memo to city aldermen reporting Valeri’s request. “I fully support this request contingent on funds being available.”
According to information supplied by the Holy Cross Family Learning Center, students who register for classes are initially screened and interviewed to gauge their level of English proficiency. Classes are offered at all six levels throughout the week, and students can take part either two or four days Mondays through Thursdays, as well as evenings.
The center offers a total of 14 hours of face-to-face class time, along with distance learning opportunities through mobile device apps targeted at their individual needs. In the 2018-2019 school year, students topped over 2,000 hours of instruction.
Students are tested at the mid-year level and again at the end of the year to look for signs of improvement. In the spring of 2019, 91% of our students improved their original assessment score and many moved up to a higher group as a result.