El Centro Del Cardenal, Catholic Charities

Basic Information

Address: 19 St. Joseph Street, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
Phone Number: 617 522 4040 ext. 634
School Type: Adult ESOL
Ages: 17 and up

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Additional Information

Founded: 1957
Registratio Deadline: Open Enrollment
Pricing: Free of Charge
School Hours: Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. -4 p.m.
School Setting:

Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, MA
Forest Hill Transportation Hub Nearby
Buses 39, 38, 41

School Size: 142 students
Classroom Size: 18 students
Classes Offered: Beginner - Advanced ESOL, Academic Skills/College Readiness, Analytical Reading/Advanced Writing, Math, Computer Application for the Workforce, Digital Communication, Distance Learning
Support Services:

El Centro provides educational and career advising, college admissions support, vocational training enrollment support, childcare support, immigrant and refugee legal services.

Computer Capabilities:

Computer lab, WiFi

Parking Spaces/Availability:

Free parking

Mission Statement:

Through providing high quality educational services, El Centro serves the community by opening better life opportunities for adult immigrants and leads them in their search of fulfilling careers and self-sufficiency.

Philosophy/Belief Statement:

The program offers instructional and advising services that encourage learners’ academic and personal development. The program’s efforts are focused on raising students’ expectations for themselves, shaping their career goals, and equipping them with tools to achieve sustained personal growth and economic security. El Centro makes this possible by drawing on decades of expertise in the field, tailoring classroom instruction to the specific needs of its students while offering impactful advising and support services that foster self-belief, vision, and perseverance in all the learners it serves.

School History:

Founded in 1957, El Centro was among the first programs in the state to provide ESOL classes for adult immigrants. Over the years, the program has helped thousands of people to adjust in their new home country: to learn the language and culture, to find jobs, to become responsible members of the community. Through the years, El Centro has been consistently rated in the very top tier of adult ESOL programs in the state.

Classes are free of charge, and the program is open to anyone who wants to learn, without restrictions on residency, immigration status, age, or language proficiency level. El Centro’s specific contribution to the community of adult learners is the comprehensive nature of the program services with intensive classes of all English proficiency levels and a clear focus on post-secondary education. About 80% of the program graduates continue their education in colleges and post-secondary training programs after completing studies in El Centro. 


Programs & Services:

The program provides six levels of intensive ESOL instruction from beginner to advanced levels, targeted Math instruction for students in search of college education and post-secondary career training, distance learning for working adults with busy life schedules, transition to college services, college admission and placement tests preparation, and a complex system of advising and support services. Classes meet four times a week from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.


"Friends and family are speechless about my results in a short period of time. My success is based on my work, but it also depends on my hard-working teachers and the quality of the program. I want to express my deepest gratitude to my valuable, dedicated, and patient teachers who contributed greatly to my success. I have many friends and family members who spent all financial aid money for ESL classes in community colleges; often, they just decided to abandon college because it took so much money and time. El Centro helped me to avoid many mistakes and put me on a fast track to college success."

"I studied English at El Centro Del Cardenal for two years. I have a great experience in this program. I started in level 2, and I finished the program in level 5. The teachers helped me a lot to improve my English. They advised me, they worried for me, and always gave me support with positive words. When I first did not pass the Accuplacer test to the college level, I was so sad. I thought I could not go to college. My teacher stayed with me late after classes and helped me to prepare for the test, and I passed it. They helped me to start a college program, they supported me in everything."

"El Centro is one of the best courses that I have ever seen. I started English at level one two years ago, and now I am in college because I completed the five levels of English at El Centro del Cardenal and did well on the college tests. I am very grateful to El Centro and to my professors for giving me the opportunity to learn English with them. I hope that this school will continue helping people like me. People without money, but with a lot of dreams in life, dreams that this school helps to achieve."

“Although I am considered to be highly educated, it was more than difficult to adapt to my new life in the United States. One month after I arrived, I decided to go to El Centro Del Cardenal. I took a placement test. I was placed in level 5. Although level 5 is pretty high, that did not mean I had a high level in English because I could not pass college exams and I could not pay for ESL classes in college. I had to build my English skills. And El Centro proved to be the best place for me. It was more than a school. I met people that offered me a better path for my new life in the United States.

After completing level 5, I decided that I should go to college, but I had no idea about the steps that I should take in order to achieve this goal. I spoke with my teacher about what I wanted to do and about my interests. She helped me to totally reshape my steps according to my goals, my best interests, and my financial situation. I did not understand the system here. Today, I have the acceptance letter to UMASS Boston with a 30% discount due to my honors student status in the community college. Also, I have been accepted to the Northeastern University Fast Track Program for a double major in Accounting and Finance.

Words will never be powerful enough to express my gratitude to El Centro and my teacher in El Centro. But they are the only thing I have, and I want to use them from the very bottom of my heart to say THANK YOU.”

Additional Information:

Nearly all El Centro students come to school because they want to advance their careers through education. El Centro design allows students to acquire skills sufficient for admission into college and competitive vocational training programs in a relatively short time which is a crucial factor for adult learners' ability to stay focused on education. Many students who start studies in certificate programs and improve their jobs to better paying full-time jobs of medical assistants, pharmacy technicians, or CNAs continue classes in degree programs, majoring in Nursing, Business, IT, Education, etc. El Centro is instrumental in putting them on viable middle class career paths.

Last year El Centro received the Outstanding Community Partner award from the highly competitive Year Up program where our young adult graduates will be trained IT, Software Quality Assurance, Business and Finance - fields that ensure excellent career prospects.

Helping adult immigrant students who face multiple challenges to get on a pathway to self-sustaining jobs involves much more than a good classroom instruction. Thoughtful advising based on expert knowledge of community resources and job market trends, as well as cultural competency, is a cornerstone of our work ensuring El Centro students' success. As a community based program, we are very close to our students. We help them to resolve multiple life issues. El Centro students have access to Catholic Charities childcare services, legal assistance, shelters. El Centro helps students to apply for jobs, obtain health insurance, open bank accounts, and prepare for the Citizenship exam. Students who stop classes in lower levels because they cannot afford to pass on low wage jobs stay connected to El Centro community through electronic media. The program continues to help its alumni with educational and career advising and logistical support for years after they stop classes.

The school takes pride in keeping its best traditions of helping the new immigrants adjust in the new culture. Students learn the history and culture of their new home country on field trips to the Freedom Trail, MFA, and Historic Salem; take an annual Charles River Boat Tour, and have a traditional school picnic on Jamaica Pond. Students bring their children and other family members and friends to these events that tightly bond the school community. Many say that the school experience is the best part of their lives in the new country.

El Centro is a community that helps adult immigrants develop, understand, learn, move ahead, and sustain motivation. As our graduate currently in college said in her commencement speech, "You need somebody to support you. You simply can't continue without somebody standing by you. I know I can always count on El Centro."