The Academy of Continuing Education (ACE) in Cranford is accepting applications for its March 2-April 24 semester. ACE offers adults with developmental or physical disabilities the opportunity to pursue continuing education as an alternative to traditional day programs.

"Adults with disabilities who have graduated from the public school system or specialized schools often have limited choices when planning their future," said Robin Morris-Marano, ACE director of educational services. "Their options often are limited to generic day programs that do not offer the intellectual stimulation and growth provided by our academy. Our program also is ideal for older adults with disabilities who wish to sharpen previously learned skills."

ACE’s course offerings for the upcoming semester include math, reading and creative writing, explore your world through science, jewelry design and merchandising, visual arts and crafts, musical expression, theatre and performance, time traveler (history), career and financial literacy, media production, card-making and self-understanding/peer leadership.

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Based on their interests, students may take as many or as few classes as they choose.

"ACE differs from a traditional day program, where the attendee's day is planned for them," Morris-Marano said. "We work with our students and their families to help them select the classes that will bring them the most enjoyment and from which they will get the most benefit."

Sebastian Ruiz has been attending ACE for four years, steadily increasing his classes each semester. He works six days a week at Nautica at the Jersey Gardens Mall but was bored at home when not working. He said he enjoys attending ACE because it keeps his mind active.

“I like to learn and I like to meet new people,” he said.

Last semester Ruiz switched from math and reading into jewelry and merchandising and card-making, and now has added career and financial literacy, theater and self-understanding, bringing his classes to six spread over five days. 

“Math and reading are so quiet and calm,” he said. “Jewelry and card-making are fun and they make money.”

Ruiz also aspires for a more challenging job and hopes self-understanding will help him get a new position somewhere.

“(Career class) helps people get jobs, like what to wear and what not to do in an interview,” he said.

“Sebastian is a perfect example of the flexibility of our program and the ability for our students to tailor their classes to their personal interests,” Morris-Marano said. 

Whenever possible, ACE curricula are developed in accordance with the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) guidelines, implementing Core Curriculum Content Standards and aligned with the most current information offered by the NJDOE, according to Morris-Marano. The ACE Program is approved by the New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities for Day Habilitation through the department's Supports Program.

For more information, Morris-Marano can be reached at 908.354.3040, ext. 4671. Due to growth, ACE now has an additional director of educational services, Stacy Marshall, who can be reached at ext. 4315.

For a course catalog, visit the ACE website at https://www.caunj.org/what-we-do/day-program/academy-for-continuing-education/.

The Academy of Continuing Education is a program of Community Access Unlimited (CAU), a Union County-based, statewide nonprofit that strives to integrate people with disabilities and at-risk youth into the general community through comprehensive supports.

About Community Access Unlimited

Community Access Unlimited (CAU), celebrating more than 40 years in 2020, supports people with special needs in achieving real lives in the community. CAU provides support and gives voice to adults and youth who traditionally have little support and no voice in society. CAU helps people with housing, life skills, employment, money management, socialization and civic activities. CAU also supports opportunities for advocacy through training in assertiveness, decision-making and civil right. CAU currently serves more than 6,000 individuals and families, with the number served growing each year. For more information about CAU and its services, contact us by phone at 908.354.3040, online at www.caunj.org or by mail at 80 West Grand Street, Elizabeth, NJ 07202.