Adult and Continuing Education Martha’s Vineyard (ACE MV) is offering a plethora of online courses to help Islanders meet their personal and professional goals, even during a pandemic.
From QuickBooks and Excel classes to conversation courses on oppression in the media and women in photography, the Vineyard nonprofit has options for every interest or need.
ACE MV program coordinator Rachel Hines said the organization is looking hard at what some of the greatest community needs are currently, while also adding some programs that exercise the higher faculties, and allow people to engage with each other and have meaningful conversations.
One spring semester offering coming up is a grant-writing course with Professor Christopher Shrum from the Pratt Institute. Hines said Shrum was her graduate school mentor, and one of her main professors.
“He is very smart, and since there are so many nonprofits on Martha’s Vineyard, I think it will be super-beneficial to learn more about what goes into writing a grant, how to find them, and everything that goes into that process,” Hines said.
ACE also offers a course that helps people plan their business pitch, and initiate their own business startup. Hines said the organization found that more people are looking to start their own business, with the current economic tribulations causing many folks to be laid off from their jobs. “They were laid off from their jobs, maybe as servers or working in a restaurant, and they don’t really know what the future of that industry looks like,” Hines said.
ACE also helps students develop a business plan for their future.
Going along with some of its usual CPR and first aid offerings, ACE is holding a wilderness first aid course, which Hines said is another example of the nonprofit looking at the Island from a holistic perspective. “We live in the rural world, so that is definitely a useful class,” she said.
And, for those older people on-Island who are looking to apply for Medicare, Hines said, a course is available that shows them how to access the program, how to apply, and how to understand their potential benefits.
For individuals looking to reassess their finances or simply learn more about the ins and outs, Tilma Johnson of Rockland Trust joins with ACE to illustrate ways of adapting to the pandemic.
“The pandemic is changing how we look at our finances, particularly small businesses who have been through it all — this class can help people re-evaluate, start fresh, and really be able to do what they need to survive,” Hines said.
As part of ACE’s regular course schedule, Islanders can learn more about QuickBooks, Excel, and the entire Microsoft Office suite with a slate of computer literacy classes.
Conversation courses like photo fundamentals, a women in photography class, and wine workshops allow for important social engagement, and encourage attendees to expand their interests.
Hines said ACE started a social justice chapter, and is offering a course called “Conversations that Make You Uncomfortable,” with readings from Black essayists such as James Baldwin and speeches from civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and others.
This course will be taught by Nancy Hoffman, who works for the workforce and education enrichment nonprofit JFF in Boston.
In the fall, students can earn college credits from home, and teachers can earn personal development points by taking courses on social justice and social change within the classroom.
“She has a huge background on social justice,” Hines said. “We are hopeful you might go into the class with one idea that you have about something, and you will either expand your ideas, change them for the better, or maybe meet someone that can help further your conversation about all the social justice and racial justice work that needs to happen.”
According to Hines, ACE just launched its medical interpreter course, where people are employed through the hospital and can interpret for people for whom English is not their first language, along with a court interpreter course.
There are also a number of options for those looking to learn more about jobs in the alternative energy and sustainability realm, including a program that earns students their offshore wind technician certification.
In order to identify the greatest needs and interests of the Island community, Hines said, ACE always welcomes input on new and innovative ideas for course offerings.
The road to creating a course for ACE starts with pulling together an advisory board made up of people who have experience in a particular field or industry, planning the content of the course, and finding an experienced and passionate teacher.
And the nonprofit is always collecting input from local groups, businesses, and individuals as to what programs would benefit the Island the most. “There are also lots of local businesses on the Island that might say, ‘Oh, my employees really want to learn more about this,’” Hines said. “We have a lot of conversations, and try to listen to what people need, and what people are looking to know more about.”
Although it’s not possible for ACE to teach in-person classes at the high school, they do have a ServSafe course in the spring, which will be held at the Barn Bowl & Bistro, practicing social distancing protocols.
The wilderness first aid course in the spring will be held outdoors, socially distanced.
If there is ever an interest or a need that isn’t being provided for on Martha’s Vineyard, Hines said, ACE welcomes suggestions.
“People will reach out to us with ideas, then we figure out if those ideas meet our mission. Then it’s all about getting a teacher and getting it organized,” Hines said. “A lot of the time, we can really make it happen.”
Check out ACE MV’s full slate of courses for winter and spring at acemv.org/courses-by-date-spring-2021.