Tucked inside a Bustleton Avenue strip mall between a hookah bar and a European restaurant is an adult education hub that recently joined a city-wide network of agencies aiming to help immigrants and others find jobs and opportunities.
New World Association, 9857 Bustleton Ave., in July became a MyPLACE campus through the Philadelphia Office of Adult Education.
Those looking for English as a second language, GED, citizenship or adult basic education classes can call the association and schedule an intake appointment. Then, they are assessed to determine what services they need, and NWA will offer classes or refer them to a different group in the MyPLACE network.
MyPLACE, which stands for Philadelphia Literacy and Adult Career Education, started in 2014, and about 4,500 people sign up for appointments each year, according to Catalina Gonzalez, adult education programs manager for the city’s Office of Workforce Development.
“It started as a network of agencies working together to provide opportunities for adult learners, 16 and over, that need to improve their reading, writing and math skills, English language skills, digital skills… and also basically improve their educational skills so they can obtain family-sustaining jobs,” Gonzalez explained.
NWA is MyPLACE’s first campus in Northeast Philadelphia. It’s significant because immigrants often take advantage of the sites to learn English or obtain credentials needed to get a good-paying job.
The foreign-born population in the Northeast is high, though not necessarily well-served, some in the community say. In two census tracts in Bustleton and Somerton, nearly 60 percent of residents are immigrants, according to a 2018 PEW study.
“I think we are in the heart of the immigrant community in Northeast Philadelphia,” NWA Executive Director Marina Lipkovskaya said.
The nonprofit association was formed 37 years ago in Rhawnhurst to serve mostly Jewish refugees from the former Soviet Union. It has since relocated to Bustleton and now caters to people of all nationalities, including American-born residents who may be looking to get their GED.
In addition to its Bustleton Avenue headquarters, NWA conducts classes at the School District of Philadelphia’s community schools, including George Washington High School, and at CareerLink North in Feltonville.
“We applied to this (MyPLACE) program because there is a huge need for educational services for people who are educationally disadvantaged, some of them because of the language barrier and some of them because they did not manage to get appropriate education for some reasons in their life,” Lipkovskaya said.
MyPLACE streamlines the educational process for participants, Gonzalez said. In the past, students may have been assessed, only to find out no classes fit their schedule. Then, they would need to find another agency and get tested again.
“New World Association now has access to information about the network — where the classes are, when are the classes, what days, what times — so they can make that referral,” Gonzalez said.
Adult learners face a number of barriers to education, including childcare, scheduling classes around work, and, for immigrants, language and cultural differences, Gonzalez and Lipkovskaya said. MyPLACE is aimed at bridging those gaps.
“People feel comfortable when they have education,” Lipkovskaya said. “People feel comfortable when they have credentials that allow them to work.”
For more information or to schedule an intake appointment, call New World Association at 215-856-7316 or the Office of Adult Education at 215-686-5250. ••
Jack Tomczuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.