Alternative school’s founder marks 33 years
“Each time you want to let go, you can't,” said Neletha Butterfield of her long tenure at Care Learning Centre, the school that she founded 33 years ago in her basement.
Ms Butterfield, a former Government minister, still puts in her ten-week teaching sessions at the school she directs.
“I'll keep going back until I pass the baton on, and that should be soon,” she said.
“There's always some parent or young person walking through the door that needs help. As long as there's some energy left, I will keep trying.”
Traditional school settings do not work for everyone, as Ms Butterfield points out: an alternative route is vital for students who don't fit in, so that they may at least acquire a high school diploma.
“It opens a door for other opportunities, and it does not have to be a job.
“It could be going away to school or simply improving yourself.”
Care was launched on November 1, 1983, after Ms Butterfield lost her accounting job — but nonetheless paid the $90 she could ill afford as a single mother to enrol her three children in the computer-training programme offered by educator Muriel Wade Smith.
Dr Smith ended up training her as well. Since then, Ms Butterfield has worked with generations of people who dropped out of school for any number of reasons. Some of her students have been young; others enrolled at Care as senior citizens.
The most rewarding aspect of her hard work, she said, was simply helping people to change their lives.
“We had a young man who felt that being on the street was a good thing until we were able to bring him in, and he realised that he could do better.
“Seeing them graduate — that's very rewarding.”
Yesterday was one such occasion as another class graduated with their GED qualifications. The exam's new programme has been challenging, especially with maths, but since January 2015 when the new series began, about 20 students have succeeded. Care hopes to adopt a new initiative in September: Youth at Risk, a programme that includes employment and life skills with the high school qualification, as well as cultural learning, including African studies.
The growth of Care, based on Mount Hill, reflects the enduring need out in the community. Ms Butterfield said she is keen to build the school's links with local businesses, so that employers can commit to helping their staff obtain the high school diploma.
“There are difficult times out there — but they don't have to be that difficult,” she said.
To volunteer or donate, call Care Learning at 292-0915, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.