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Academy of Continuing Education offers educational opportunities for adults with disabilities

Students with developmental disabilities learn about tempo and notes from art director Marguerite Modero in Musical Expression class at the Academy of Continuing Education in Cranford.

The Academy of Continuing Education (ACE) in Cranford has begun its latest eight-week semester offering adults with developmental or physical disabilities the opportunity to pursue continuing education as an alternative to traditional day programs, according to its director, Kevin Marks.

"Adults with disabilities who have recently graduated from the public school system or specialized schools often have limited choices when planning their future," Marks 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 includes Lifetime Math; Reading and Creative Writing; Musical Expression; Theater and Performance; Time Travelers (history); Career & Financial Literacy; Media Production/ACE TV; Jewelry Design and Merchandising; Visual Arts and Crafts; Explore Your World Through Science; and Self-Understanding/Peer Leadership.

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"Some students take 10 classes, some take just one," Marks said. "This gives them the opportunity to choose the classes that interest them. That differs from a traditional day program, where their day is planned for them. We also 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. "  

While the current semester has begun, enrollment is open and ongoing and new students may start at any time, according to Marks. More information and a course catalog are available by visiting and clicking on Academy of Continuing Education under Supports & Services.

Terrell Ross, 26, has been an ACE student since the academy's inception and this semester is taking five classes.

"I love it," he said. "The classes are easy but the challenges our teachers give us can be hard and show us we can do it. I like this more than school when I was younger."

Dianna Simms, 25, is taking three classes. She has a vision impairment and appreciates that the teachers adjust to compensate for that, such as during reading class.

"I can ask the teacher to enlarge it and I improve my comprehension," she said. "I can't even use a ruler but I can paint and write poetry."

Narci Lopez, 34, who is taking six classes, is in her second year at ACE after relocating from New York, where she was disappointed with her learning options.

"I wanted to learn more and this is a good opportunity and challenge," she said. "I want to go to college to learn more about arts and crafts and bring them out into the community."

There are 45 students enrolled in the current semester and class sizes are kept small so individual attention can be given to each student and classes can be tailored to individual needs, according to Marks.

Whenever possible, ACE curriculum are 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, he added.

The Academy of Continuing Education is a program of Community Access Unlimited (CAU), a statewide 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 supports in areas including housing, vocational skills and life-skills training, education, advocacy and recreation.

About Community Access Unlimited

Community Access Unlimited (CAU), celebrating its 38th year in 2017, 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 or by mail at 80 West Grand Street, Elizabeth, NJ 07202.


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