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Hartford Schools Welcome Adults From Puerto Rico

David DesRoches
Student KendraLiz Gonzalez is one of about 20 adults from Puerto Rico taking classes through Hartford's adult education program.

KendraLiz Gonzalez had been in cosmetology school for only two months when Hurricane Maria swept through Puerto Rico, destroying her school. So she took her twin girls, hopped on a plane, and came to Hartford, where she's staying with her aunt.

Lea esta historia en español. / Read this story in Spanish.

Now she's learning English and computer skills through the school district's Adult Education Center.

"I'm learning a lot. This is good," she said.

As Puerto Ricans make the trek to Connecticut after Maria devastated their island, many of them need help learning English, finding a job, or getting some education. The adult education program at Hartford Public Schools is trying to meet that demand.

There are about 20 people from Puerto Rico taking adult education classes, according to school officials. But that number could jump at any moment as more people arrive from the island and from the Dominican Republic.

The school offers GED programs, citizenship classes, English classes, and also an NEDP, which is essentially an online program for people who are working full-time. There's even childcare available for people who take evening classes, and they have a career center that can help with job placement and college applications.

Acting director Zandralyn Gordon said her students and staff are committed to helping as many people as they can.

"Whatever their needs are, we try to meet that need," Gordon said. "Whether it's, 'OK, I don't have books.' We have the books. Bus passes to get here -- we will grant them bus passes. Clothing? We will reach out in our community. So whatever their needs are, we are here to support them, because we understand the devastation that happened in their country."

Credit WNPR/David DesRoches
Students pose with Zandralyn Gordon, far left, acting director of Hartford's Adult Education Center.

Student KendraLiz Gonzalez said others should join her in Hartford.

"In the future, I want to go to my island, you know, Puerto Rico," she said. "But it's good, here is good."

For students, the best part, is that the program doesn't cost them anything to attend.

David finds and tells stories about education and learning for WNPR radio and its website. He also teaches journalism and media literacy to high school students, and he starts the year with the lesson: “Conflicts of interest: Real or perceived? Both matter.” He thinks he has a sense of humor, and he also finds writing in the third person awkward, but he does it anyway.

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