Hello, Neighbor!

J Street center provides education, connection for disabled adults

By Jessica Laskey
December 2022

You’ve probably driven by it countless times, a Spanish-style building shaded by trees along J Street between 52nd and 53rd streets. You’ve even stopped there at the traffic light on Rodeo Way.

An ornately painted sign identifies the building as A.W. McClaskey Adult Center. It was once El Dorado Elementary School. Today it houses various classes, several focused on adults with developmental disabilities.

When seismic regulations were ordered in the 1970s, the site was deemed too expensive to retrofit for kids but perfect for adults. In 1978, the building was repurposed as the A. Warren McClaskey Adult Center, named for a former Sacramento City Unified adult education director.

“Before legislation desecrated adult education, we used to have 10 apportionment areas,” says Susan Lytle Gilmore, principal at McClaskey since 1992.

“We had classes for older adults, home economics, adults with disabilities, ESL, adult basic education for below-eighth-grade skills, CTE (career technical education), parent education and more. Now the only ones left are adult basic education, ESL, CTE and adults with disabilities.”

The center seeks to “enhance life opportunities and choices of adults with developmental disabilities” through classes that include community access, employment exploration, independent living, job preparation, leisure time, production occupation work and socialization.

“My group of 12 students are ages 25 to 73,” says recycling program teacher Scott Ford. “Once they get here, they really like it and they’re welcome to stay as long as they like.”

Ford’s class partners with local schools and businesses to collect recyclables. Students sort and sell materials to recycling centers for a small profit, which goes to program costs and modest paychecks for students.

“It’s a work program. Students are not only learning skills but also earning extra money,” Ford says.

While students stay busy with collection rounds in a donated van and trailer, they stay equally active in the center’s two gardens, where Kathryn Harris works.

“The garden community class teaches the students skills for jobs in garden centers, nurseries, landscaping and other soft or basic skills, as well as about a healthy lifestyle and teamwork,” Harris says.

“We have a fruit, vegetable and herb garden and a California native rain garden that’s doing really well. Our plan is to eventually incorporate tech so students can learn how to post things on social media. We also want to start a store or stand where we can bring in the community.”

Harris partners with community compost collective ReSoil Sacramento and plans to start a vermiculture (worm) program.

“There’s a lot going on in the garden,” she says. “We’re always looking for volunteers to come work with students through the district’s volunteer program or on a monthly basis at our work parties. We welcome donations for tools or for people to come and share their wisdom and expertise with us. We’re trying to empower students to be the best they can be in whatever they’re doing.”

Ford also needs volunteers, but of a different nature. He encourages neighbors to save bottles and cans and drop them off at the center, 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Or get on the pick-up schedule for high-volume contributions.

“We live in this wonderful neighborhood that we don’t have a lot of contact with,” Ford says. “We want people to know that there’s an organization right around the corner doing really good work for a vulnerable population.”

For information, email Scott Ford at scott-ford@scusd.edu. A. Warren McClaskey Adult Center is at 5241 J St.

Jessica Laskey can be reached at jessrlaskey@gmail.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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