A Brief History of St. Charles
St. Charles Adult Education Centre began as an essential component of an overall plan by the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board to address the growing needs of adult learners in the city. The Hamilton Adult Basic Education Association initially brought together members from the three local school boards, CAAT, Literacy Association, Hamilton Public Library and various regional and community agencies (social services, C.E.I.C., etc.). The Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board was the only board in the education field that took the early initiative, and we have never looked back. Opening with three centres located in the city of Hamilton, and with a total initial enrolment of over 900 adult learners in Adult Basic Education and Credit Courses, the Centre was officially opened in September 1985, with headquarters in the former St. Charles Catholic elementary school.
St. Charles became the headquarters for the Extension Education Section (Continuing Education) Offices and the new Adult Continuing Education Centre for the Board. The projected enrolment for the first year was sixty adult learners in Adult Basic Education and credit programs. The actual enrolment after the first week of registration was well over 200 adult learners. St. Charles began to meet the growing need for adult education in the City of Hamilton.
What made St. Charles such an early success in the adult learning field? Visionary central and local leadership, a professional and caring teaching staff, a hard working support staff, and a philosophy of inclusiveness that respects the cultural and religious diversity, gender and potential of each student.
The initial program offerings consisted of Basic Literacy and Numeracy, Grades 9-12 English and Math credit courses, and a Co-operative Education program for adults. Subsequently, English as a Second Language, Typing and Law were added to the program. The program utilized the adult learning model wherein students worked at their own pace, with help from an instructor. St Charles also featured free registration and ongoing intake of students throughout the year. Shift workers were welcome, with evening classes added to the regular complement of day classes.
As the St. Charles program became better known throughout the region, community groups wishing to establish a class within a housing project, shelter or agency location requested assistance. Thus developed the St. Charles Outreach Programs. Currently, St. Charles collaborates with Catholic Family Services to provide credit teachers at St Martin's Manor, which is a home on the Hamilton mountain for teenage mothers and their children. St Charles also collaborates with the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd to provide credit teachers at Notre Dame House, a shelter for homeless and street involved youth, located in downtown Hamilton.
St. Charles has always been known as an outstanding leader in the teaching of English as a Second Language (ESL) and Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC). St. Charles is recognized throughout the province of Ontario as a key partner with the federal and provincial Ministries of Citizenship and Immigration. St Charles was the first ESL service provider in the City of Hamilton to provide Canadian Language Benchmark Assessments. This service provides the students with an opportunity to be professionally assessed, throughout the school year, by instructors who are specially trained to administer the Canadian Language Benchmark Test. This allows the students to be given authentic and credible language assessments in order to move up the CLB stepladder.
St. Charles enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with several community groups and agencies in the City of Hamilton, notably the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion and the Hamilton Immigration Partnership Council. Members of the St. Charles staff provide valuable insights into the changing needs of immigrants in the city.
One of the hallmark programs offered at St. Charles is the Literacy and Basic Skills (LBS) program. This program offers a second chance for learners who did not finish their education but who now wish to obtain valuable job related skills such as resume writing, time management, and interview skills along with basic math and language instruction. LBS is offered at most St. Charles centres and is a valuable community partner with social assistance programs such as Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program.
St. Charles offers a variety of venues for students to obtain their secondary school diploma. Summer school and night school credit courses are offered, each year to secondary school students throughout the city. The St. Charles Adult Day School is another way for students who have not completed their secondary education to obtain their diploma. As well, we offer credit courses through the Independent Learning Centre (ILC). And finally, our PLAR for Mature Student program allows adult students the opportunity to complete 17 secondary school credits in as little as 6 weeks.
St. Charles leads the way in Hamilton with innovative programs, such as the Personal Support Worker (PSW) program. This course provides students with an opportunity to obtain certification in the growing PSW field. Most of our PSW graduates are immediately hired by hospitals, nursing homes and palliative care centres. Our PSW course is highly valued in the long term health care community in Hamilton. Our students display a high degree of professionalism and expertise at their work placements.
St. Charles also offers an innovative and highly successful Chef Training program which prepares students to obtain employment in the rapidly growing hospitality field.
Other St. Charles initiatives include general interest computer courses, Canadian citizenship classes and a specialized language training program specifically aimed at improving the language proficiency of immigrants who have had previous professional training in other countries.
St. Charles---Learning for Life!