The Academy of Continuing Education (ACE) in Cranford is accepting applications for its January 2-February 23 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," Kevin Marks, ACE director said. "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."
The ACE curriculum for the January-February semester includes Lifetime Math 1 and 2; Musical Expression; Reading and Creative Writing 1 and 2; Theater and Performance; Time Travelers (history); Career & Financial Literacy; Jewelry Design & Merchandising; Media Production/ACE TV; Visual Arts and Crafts; Self-Understanding/Peer Leadership; Card-making; and Explore Your World Through Science (new enrollees only).
Students may take as many or as few classes as they choose, based on their interests.
"ACE differs from a traditional day program, where the attendee's day is planned for them," Marks 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. "
Jason Garcia of Kenilworth has been attending ACE for about 18 months and currently comes to the academy four days per week taking math, reading, careers, science and self-understanding/peer leadership classes. The 25-year-old missed high school after graduating and said he was just "hanging out at home" before coming to ACE.
"I like there are so many people you can talk to," he said. "I like there are lots of ways people can help you. I like the self-help advocacy group on Fridays."
Garcia's mother, Patricia, sees the benefits of his attending the academy.
"It's been wonderful for us," she said. "It's a high enough level that he's not bored and there is an understanding that some days are good days and some days are bad days. I'm very excited. I think he's learning a lot and communicating better with his peers."
Allison Sosnowski, 21, of Westfield has been attending ACE classes on Tuesdays for two semesters. She enjoyed high school and missed learning after graduation. She is enjoying practicing for a joint concert ACE students will be having with Kean University music students in January.
"I always liked music," she said. "I like singing with other people. It's fun."
Sosnowski's mother, Kathy, is very pleased with her daughter's experiences at ACE and wishes her schedule allowed Allison to attend more than one day a week.
"She's very happy," she said. "She jumps out of bed. She has issues with speech and loudness so being in a show can only be beneficial. You definitely want your child to be happy. You want them to be striving for something that makes them happy. She was stressing out her last year of high school. Now she's enjoying herself."
Andrew Seiler, 27, of Cranford takes science, history, theater and career and financial literacy classes and loves coming to the academy, he said.
"It's a great experience," he said. "In my business class, I'm learning about budgeting. In science, we're learning about the mammoths. In acting class, we've been learning about method acting. In history, we're learning about the battles of World War I. I contribute a lot in class."
Whenever possible, ACE curriculum is developed in accordance with the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) guidelines, implementing Core Curriculum Content Standards along with compatible Learning Strands, Cumulative Progress Indicators and Student Learning Objectives aligned with the most current format information offered by the NJDOE, according to Marks. The ACE Program is approved by the New Jersey Department of Developmental Disabilities for Day Habilitation through the Supports Program.
More information and a course catalog/registration form are available by visiting www.caunj.org and clicking on Academy of Continuing Education under Supports & Services. Marks can be reached as 908.354.3040, ext. 4671.
The Academy of Continuing Education is a program of Community Access Unlimited (CAU), a statewide Union County-based nonprofit providing support programs and services to adults with disabilities as well as youth served under the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to enable them to live independently in the community, providing support in areas including housing, vocational skills and life-skills training, education, advocacy and recreation.