Adult Ed on Martha’s Vineyard

As Lynn Ditchfield, director of Adult and Community Education of Martha’s Vineyard (ACE MV), prepares to launch a third season offering a roster of classes to Islanders of all stripes, ages, and interests, she notes that the organization is coming closer to fulfilling her vision for it.

“We’re heading in a more developed direction,” she said late last week. “We’re working with others trying to establish a real base for a college right here on the Island.”

Towards this goal, this fall the organization will offer two “professional development” courses, along with their standard, varied roster of enrichment classes. Based on input gathered from a needs assessment outreach effort, the ACE MV roster this fall will include English 101 (English Composition) and Medical Terminology, as well as the Essential Math and English courses that have been a part of the curriculum from the beginning.

English 101, which is a required course for Cape Cod Community College (CCCC) and is a prerequisite for all other college level English courses, is being offered for three college credits through CCCC. Peg Regan, former principal of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), will be the instructor. While the course offers a great opportunity for those with plans to attend college, Ms. Ditchfield also has another target constituency in mind. “There’s a large percentage of young adults who stay on the Island after graduation and it’s a great way for them to get involved in college and see what that feels like,” she said.

The Medical Terminology course, which will be taught by nurse practitioner Nancy Phillips of Island Health Care, is described on the ACE MV website as “recommended for people interested in earning a medical certificate and required for Medical Billing & Coding, Medical Assisting or Cardio-Phlebotomy and Pharmacy Technician Certificates.” The course is more intensive than others that ACE MV has offered — day-long Saturday classes over seven weekends.

Ms. Ditchfield relies on an Advisory Council, made up of 38 organizations and individuals, and an outreach effort to guide her in the choice of course offerings and the general direction that ACE MV will take. “In order to survive we need the input of the community,” she said.

Along with the professional courses, the ACE MV curriculum will once again feature instruction in a little bit of everything — from belly dancing to writing for the web, from cribbage to understanding Medicare and dealing with dementia. Many of the popular courses will be continued, although Ms. Ditchfield notes that a new approach is to only offer each course once each year to mix things up a little. There will be three semesters, with around 35 classes included in each. The classes run from one session to seven weekly sessions.

Computer courses were most in demand the first year, replaced in popularity by fitness courses last year, Ms. Ditchfield said. This semester’s roster includes a number of exercise classes, including hoop dancing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and fencing. There will be a couple of cooking classes and a new food-related course that Ms. Ditchfield is particularly excited about, Wild Edibles, which will be held at Felix Neck. The other classes all take place at MVRHS or the Charter School.

Ms. Ditchfield explains her motivation for starting the program. She says, “I realized that we have amazing resources here. The faculty is outstanding, and several people with high levels of degrees or experience are willing to share with the community.” During her 30 years of teaching on the Island, she has been introduced to experts and educators in many areas, a collection of colleagues from which she has recruited a staff.

Other educators have approached the organizers to offer their expertise. This year, for example, Sharon Loferski Engler, who recently moved to the Island, will be offering a parenting class similar to one that she has taught for years in Washington State.

ACE MV will continue a successful program that was started last year by offering travel/volunteer opportunities paired with preparatory classes. Last spring, a small group traveled to Nicaragua where they taught English. This year, Ms. Ditchfield hopes to host another Nicaragua trip in February and a Peru trip in April, if there is enough interest.

ACE MV will host its first fundraiser next month, a Cultural Festival scheduled to coincide with Ethnic Studies Week. The organization has hosted a few different presentations and parties to which the community was invited, and Ms. Ditchfield hopes to sponsor more events and perhaps eventually include a speaker’s bureau to bring qualified speakers to the Island.

Rather than just bemoan the fact that living on the Island limits our educational opportunities, Ms. Ditchfield and her associates have done something about it. She points out that until now the two options for taking college-level courses were traveling off-Island or online instruction, neither of them ideal. She is convinced that there is no substitute for live classroom learning. “What we’re working at is keeping it face-to-face, instructor and student.”

Tuesday, Sept. 28: Course Sampling Fair & Walk-In Registration, 5:30–7 pm, MVRHS Cafeteria

Wednesday, Sept. 29: Walk-In Registration, 5:30 –7 pm, MVRHS Lobby