Grantee Spotlight

Grantee Update: Portland Adult Education

Portland Adult Education plays a critical role in extending the Portland Public School student experience into adult learning and work force development, and reports from their most recent academic year indicate the vitality of their programs. In 2018, Portland Adult Education (PAE) was able to expand programs by leveraging a grant from the Sam L. Cohen Foundation to garner new support. Serving nearly 4,000 students during the 2017-18 academic year, PAE offers courses in math, language arts, science, and social studies to prepare students to earn a high school diploma or enter college. PAE’s Street Academy serves homeless youth, and in 2017-18 PAE helped 22 homeless youth enroll in a Portland Public School, while ten earned a high school diploma. Their English Language and Literacy programs served more than 2,000 immigrants from 82 countries, and of the 523 students who took job skills classes, 129 students earned necessary credentials to work in health care. In 2014, the Sam L. Cohen Foundation made a $25,000 grant to support jobs training courses that were taught in collaboration with another SLCF grantee, Community Financial Literacy. The foundation granted PAE $15,000 to create a new Learning Laboratory in 2017. The Learning Laboratory serves students whose prior experiences, schedules, or learning styles have prevented them from obtaining high school credentials or preparing for college and uses online tools, academic support, and one-on-one mentorships that help students stay motivated.

While the $15,000 grant is not the largest grant the foundation has made to PAE, the grant helped PAE launch a new program, gather strong evidence of the program’s success, and use that evidence to attract a new, larger grant. Since March 2018, more than 85 students have used the Learning Laboratory to study for the HiSET (formerly GED) and for the ACCUPLACER exam that assesses student readiness for entering post-secondary and certification programs.  In the first six months of opening, four students passed the HiSET and an additional four passed the ACCUPLACER exam. Also, thanks to the grant, the Learning Laboratory stayed open for six weeks during the summer, when most adult education programs do not have summer classes, and PAE was able to hire a peer mentor who offered consistent support to Learning Laboratory users.  With the data from the SLCF grant, PAE secured a larger grant from United Way of Greater Portland through the THRIVE 2027 initiative. The grant supports the Cumberland County Adult Education and Career Development Hub and strengthens marketing efforts to Cumberland county residents without a high school diploma. A series of TV ads ran through the month of December, and PAE is already seeing a return on that investment with new participants registering for Learning Laboratory programs.

In 2019, the effects of the SLCF 2017 responsive grant continue to expand as Portland Adult Education’s partnership with other adult education programs in Cumberland County and their support from THRIVE 2027 helps the Learning Laboratory attract new students and strengthen programs.



2018 Sam L. Cohen Pioneer Scholars

The Pioneer Scholar Program, a partnership between supporters and the Mitchell Institute, provides the opportunity to recognize specific Mitchell Scholars and Alumni who, through their contributions to school and community and their demonstration of certain qualities – as students and as citizens – stand out for acknowledgement.

Congratulations to:

Habso Omane - Portland High School * Smith College

Syeda Washima Fairoz - Biddeford High School * Mount Holyoke College

Luke Gosselin - Thornton Academy * University of Maine



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