There’s an international flair in the Adult Transitions Pathways classes being taught at the Ypsilanti Township Community Center. Students include (from left, with native country) Yui Nishi (Japan), Jesus Agualimpia (Argentina), Ali Aldawood (Saudi Arabia), Maria Cid-Espinoza (Mexico) and Kurumi Sato (Japan).

Responding to the needs of its surrounding communities, the Adult Transitions department at Washtenaw Community College is extending its reach with a new adult education project at the Ypsilanti Township Community Center.

“We want to provide new education and job opportunities in our community,” said Ypsilanti Township Supervisor Brenda Stumbo. “The WCC Adult Transitions team is working in cooperation with the Township staff, businesses and other community agencies to grow a great program at the Community Center. I trust WCC 100-percent. They always deliver.”

The center, located at 2025 E. Clark Road in Ypsilanti, is the third location for the WCC Adult Transitions Pathways program. They also run classes on the WCC main campus in Ann Arbor and at the Harriet Street Center at 332 Harriet Street in Ypsilanti.

“In recent years, adult education programs operated through the Ypsilanti, Willow Run and Lincoln Consolidated school districts all closed due to lack of funding. The Wayne-Westland adult education program will close at the end of this school year,” said WCC Adult Transitions Manager Bonnie Truhn. “Although those programs have closed, the need remains. We aim to serve the border of eastern Washtenaw and western Wayne counties.”

The five-year high school graduation rate in the City of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township was 60.1% in 2017, significantly lower than the Washtenaw County rate of 86.7%. In the same area, the weighted poverty rate is 21.8% and the unemployment rate 40.1% for those with no post-secondary education.

Truhn said WCC collaborated with Washtenaw Intermediate School District and Ypsilanti Community Schools to explore ways to broaden the reach of adult education programs in the county.

The Ypsilanti Township Community Center location was chosen because of its friendly atmosphere, as well as the fact that it’s on a bus line. Ypsilanti Township runs senior and community education programs at the location, so it already has a diverse, multi-generational population.

Ironically, Truhn points out, the location isn’t far from where the Adult Transitions Pathways program first started more than 20 years ago in a since-demolished church in the West Willow neighborhood.

Each of WCC’s Adult Transitions locations is customized for the needs of those particular students and Truhn says finding the most suitable programming for the Ypsilanti Township location is an ongoing process.

“The most unique feature of the Township program is the English as a Second Language (ESL) offering,” she said. “ESL is offered to English Language Learners (ELLs), or those students for whom English is not their primary language. We help students acquire fluency in English, both spoken and in the written word. We also help them learn and adapt to new cultural experience in the United States, if they are immigrants.”

The center also offers a GED preparation program that encourages students to continue developing college and job skills through counseling, support services and individual tutoring.

Adult Transitions Pathways is also intended for high school graduates who want to improve their employability.

“We want to help upskill and prepare those who have high school diplomas but may not be ready or aware of how to pursue the middle-skill occupations that the Michigan economy has a robust demand for,” Truhn said. “We want people to grow both skills and knowledge of the plethora of opportunities that are available. We work on expanding student knowledge of possibilities, including awareness of short-term certificates and apprenticeship programs that lead to employment.”

Adult Transitions staff develops a personal academic and career plan with each student. They’re also taught job readiness skills and financial literacy, and are connected with employment opportunities.

Dr. Holly Heaviland, the Executive Director of Community Partnerships at Washtenaw Intermediate School District, said she’s grateful for the partnership with Washtenaw Community College.

“WCC is providing progressive and relevant adult education programs that are meeting the needs of a vulnerable population,” Heaviland said.

“The skills learned, and the care given to adult students, is critical to keeping them engaged and encouraged to pursue their educational and career goals. The expertise that WCC has brought to this program has generated ongoing success stories that continue to have happy endings.”