When the school day ends and the sun begins to set, Central Nine Career Center transitions from a place for high school students to get expertise in career and technical education to one where adults at all stages of life can get the extra boost they need to accomplish their goals.

Like the high school program, Central Nine’s Adult Education program is turning 50 this year. The program serves almost 1,000 students, up from the COVID years when enrollment bottomed out at just over 800. Some of the most popular programs include welding, which adults use to get industry certification and advance their careers, classes for English Language Learners, or ELL, and classes that help students attain their high school equivalency, with preparation for the HiSET exam.

Last week, the adult education program celebrated National Adult Education week. Adult Education can help change the lives of people who are looking to expand their career opportunities, said Michelle Davis, Central Nine’s director of adult education.

“The adult education program impacts the whole community, just like the high school program does,” Davis said. “Any time adults gain a new skill, or up-skill, or pass high school equivalence or learn the English language, it’s a win-win. Adults who have kids and English is not their first language, once they start learning English, they can be more active in their child’s education. Let’s say we work with Endress+Hauser on welding skills. If they already have that person employed, they send them to us to learn more welding and they can go back and it can lead to a promotion. It’s about up-skilling as well.”

Smithon Charitable, an Indianapolis resident, discovered Central Nine by looking online for English programs. Charitable, originally from Haiti, hopes he can advance his career in lifeguarding by attending the adult education program’s ELL classes.

“This is my first class and I’m so excited. My teacher, we talk to each other. She’s so nice. I think I can improve my English during this class,” Charitable said. “I think I can move forward to improve my language and become a lifeguard supervisor or lifeguard manager or CNA and I can get a better life.”

Mercedes Jarquin, originally from Nicaragua, wants to learn English in order to get her high school equivalency.

“It can help my daughter at school. It helps if I need help with my homework or at my job when they explain something. I’m happy I understand more than I did before,” Jarquin said. “I want to get my (equivalency) because there’s more jobs. If my team is asking for something, I want to improve everything and I want to be prepared and ready. Every time I try to sign up for a position in the job they tell me I don’t qualify, but I trust myself and I know I can do it. That’s why I keep going.”

In teacher Steven Vitatoe’s welding class, his 12 students are hoping to get certified and advance their careers.

“To the people it helps directly, it’s invaluable,” Vitatoe said. “It can be life-changing and career-changing and it allows us to make sure jobs around us are filled and helps people get into higher income brackets.”

Jim Henry, a student in the class, has done maintenance for a career that’s lasted around 20 years. By earning certification, he can help complete tasks that he wouldn’t have been able to before, Henry said.

“The industry is currently suffering as a whole as far as skilled labor, and the people I work with struggle to find people who can do the job I do,” Henry said. “I would like to be able to do my job safely and efficiently. That way, the work I do doesn’t cause any issues down the road.”

Greenwood resident Krista Blahunka decided to take the class after hearing about it in high school, and said her main goal in the class is to just learn the basics of welding.

Eric Veal, of Indianapolis, said he wants to pursue a career in the field.

“You get to learn something new every day and you work on your own and in groups,” Veal said. “I want to be one of the top people to come out of the class and be more professional in welding.”