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December 6, 2005 > Fremont Adult School focuses on 'lifelong learning'

Fremont Adult School focuses on 'lifelong learning'

by Todd Griffin

In 1856, a small group of Chinese immigrants gathered in the basement of old St. Mary's church on California Street in San Francisco to learn English. Thus began the 150-year history of adult education in California. The state is gearing up for this sesquicentennial celebration as we enter 2006.

The Tri-City area is served by Fremont Adult School (FAS), which traces its roots back to 1926, where classes were formed in part to address the needs of immigrant Portuguese. These first classes were held in the Centerville Junior High School in Washington Township (Fremont did not incorporate as a city until 1956). So 2006 also marks the 80th anniversary of adult education in our community.

Today, the FAS offers an impressively broad spectrum of programs, coursework, and services at very affordable prices. Day, evening, and weekend classes are provided at the main campus at 4700 Calaveras Rd. (near Mowry Avenue and Blacow Road), as well as dozens of satellite locations. It serves 20,000 students each year, ranging in age from young adults to the elderly. FAS Principal Ron Cass is emphatic that "the mission of adult education is lifelong learning."

There is a wide range of community education available at FAS. There are far too many course offerings to list here, but a sampling of course categories includes arts and crafts, home improvement, business, dance, cooking, foreign languages, health, first aid, music, and home computing. Career-oriented offerings include certification programs in Clinical Medical Assistant and Pharmacy Technician, which combine coursework and internships.

In addition, basic education is offered (spelling, grammar, reading, etc.), as well as a high school diploma program, GED test preparation classes, and GED testing. FAS also provides driver's education and even a traffic violator school, where you can keep that ticket from going on your record.

For immigrants, FAS provides English as a Second Language as well as Citizenship classes, in which students prepare for the INS Citizenship interview. Distance learning is also available via cable TV, video checkout and online courses.

Many students utilize FAS to make up high school classes they have missed or failed. In fact, one in four students who graduated from local high schools last year took at least one course at FAS. As Principal Cass explained, "We provide a tremendous support service for the Fremont Unified School District. Students can come after school, at night, or in the summertime. We offer them the opportunity to ensure that they graduate on time."

FAS has a strong program for older adults, "55 or better," including basic computer services. These courses target both active older students as well as the elderly, and are offered at a large number of convenient locations, such as senior centers and retirement communities. Most of these courses are free to seniors.

Parent education is available to those with children. These classes are attended by the parent and child together, so instructors can demonstrate parenting techniques and help parents develop and refine these skills through direct interaction with their children.

For those caring for dependent adults, FAS has programs for adults with special needs, including the physically, developmentally, and emotionally disabled, as well as those suffering from Alzheimer's and similar diseases. An adult day care facility is also provided to allow caregivers much needed "time off."

Due to continued enrollment growth, the FAS campus is currently undergoing a facilities expansion. The new multipurpose building will be the focal point of the campus, and will house classes in subjects such as exercise, dance, cooking and drama. But as was the case 150 years ago, California continues to have a large influx of immigrants, and English as a Second Language remains the most popular course at FAS, which has responded to geopolitical changes and the resultant immigration patterns by tailoring such courses over recent decades to Vietnamese, Iranian, Mexican, and Russian immigrants.

Adult education has come a long way since teaching English to those immigrants in 1856, but it remains dedicated to the philosophy of lifelong learning. Principal Cass stated, "The brain is a muscle; it needs to be stimulated and challenged just as the body does. There is something in our catalog for everyone." Cass also noted that the FAS is in partnership with the community, saying "We are extremely appreciative of the support the community has shown the adult education division by passage of bond measures for our facilities. We are able to offer the stellar programs we do because of that confidence."

Visit for more information on the Fremont Adult School, including a complete list of class offerings and registration information, or call (510) 793-6465.

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