It’s been 50 years since Julie’s Family Learning Program started changing the lives of local households. Throughout that time, the program has instilled a sense of independence, confidence, and trust in its learners that has since positively impacted the next generations.

Originally, the program was created to serve low-income, head-of-household women who were looking to either continue their academic studies or better their familial relationships. Now, since they expanded their offerings to all over the age of 16 back in 2019, the program’s goal is to help break down the barriers that any of their members might be facing to help them live better lives and further their education.

Whether it’s serving breakfast and a hot lunch, helping with transportation to and from the center, or providing clothes, diapers, and toiletries, Julie’s wants to eliminate the distractions and other worries from their learners so they can focus on the bigger goal.

“We serve the whole person and the whole family,” Executive Director Michelle Persson Reilly said. “I remember [an alumni] speaking about how she learned to really interact with her children, to ask about their day, to read books to them, to ask questions and listen to what they have to say…

That wasn’t something she grew up with or came naturally. We don’t realize that these are things we learn. The focus on overall life skills and support seems to be as important if not more to the families as the academics.”

For those who work at Julie’s, it’s all about helping build a strong foundation for the entire family, not just the individual child or adult who might be benefiting from their care.

As for reasons why people come to Julie’s in the first place, there are plenty.

Adults of all ages come to try to earn their high school equivalency through the Adult Basic Education Program to further themselves in their careers. While doing that, some also provide their children with early education in the same building.

One of Reilly’s favorite stories is that of a grandfather who was taking classes for his HSE when he learned he would be gaining guardianship of his granddaughter. Initially, he thought he would have to pause his education to take care of her, but the teachers at Julie’s found a solution…He could enroll his granddaughter at Julie’s too!

He continued on as a part-time learner but stayed after his morning class to eat lunch and do his work so that his granddaughter could complete her own day of learning and socializing with her classmates.

No matter what stage of life you are at, Julie’s has some sort of service ready to assist any and every member of your family:

Preschool and early education, family literacy, relationship classes, parenting support groups, financial literacy guidance, food and housing assistance, testing accommodation, college prep, and more. For those services that aren’t provided in-house, referrals are made to partner organizations that are better equipped to help with that specific request.

They even partner with Tech Goes Home, another Boston-based non-profit that teaches digital literacy and skills. Students who take their course and complete it receive their very own computer and a year of free internet service.

Regardless of the barrier, Julie’s is there to ensure your learning and family both come first.

But Julie’s is also there to watch you see it through. With helping over 200 learners each year, all starting at different levels, they currently graduate ten throughout the year. Graduation is rolling, depending on when someone passes their last HSE test, but every time, as Reilly says, “we do it up real big!”

No graduation is complete without Pomp & Circumstance playing as each graduate walks down the hallway donning their cap and gown while their friends, family, and teachers cheer them on. Then, they enjoy a celebratory reception with cake and kind words, with no shortage of either.

Since its founding, the butterfly has been the symbol for Julie’s Family Learning. As we learn in school, a caterpillar goes through a long process of becoming a butterfly. The potential never wavers.

Despite the lengths taken, many students have gone off to colleges, training programs, accepted promotions at their current jobs, or even joined the police academy.

“People who might not think they can achieve or accomplish…they can,” Reilly said. “It might not be easy to become that butterfly, but we provide the right environment and the right support so that all the hard work the student has to do themselves results in them becoming that butterfly that they hoped to be.”

So, here’s to 50 years of butterflies!

Julie’s will be celebrating their 50th year all year long. Their annual and only fundraiser of the year will be taking place on Thursday, April 4, from 6:00 to 9:00 P.M. at the UMass Club in downtown Boston. In the fall, you will have the chance to explore and really get to know the program at their Community Open House. There will also be a reunion for any previous workers, volunteers, students, and more to reconnect and connect with new learners themselves.

In fact, there are plenty of previous students who have returned over the years to give back to the program that did so much for them and their families.

“Of all the accomplishments they have had, they speak to what their children are doing now,” Reilly said. “They’re not just proud of what they accomplished at Julie’s, but how they can give their children a better start now because of it.”

If you don’t want to wait until the fall, they are always looking for more volunteers to help out, both in person and remote. Click here to fill out their volunteer interest form, and click here to learn about all the other ways you can get involved.

If you are interested in registering for Adult Basic Education and Family Development, please fill out this intake form. With any other questions, call 617-269-6663.

One Comment

  1. Arlene Ryan March 28, 2024 at 4:52 pm - Reply

    My daughter and her daughter attended Julie’s in early 2000. They both received different but beneficial assistance. My daughter received what she needed. My granddaughter. Sophia at14 months began her years at Julie’s. She had the Montessori school experience up until she was ready to go to first grade. I remember visiting your school for different functions you had for the children. My granddaughter is 23 now and still speaks fondly of her time at Julie’s I credit your wonderful program for all the good you did for Sophia. She is a musician on the move. Thank you

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