Partners in Learning first began to take shape when Theresa Pagano visited the National Louis University Latino Outreach Program in Chicago, IL and was impressed with the involvement of Latina women and their children in language and literacy development. Theresa brought the program design back to Syracuse and began to investigate the need for a similar program in the rapidly growing Latino community. In 1988, she discovered that less than ten Latino children were involved in early childhood education in the community and that, due to language and socio-economic barriers, many of the Latino families lacked an awareness and understanding of early childhood development. Taking up the challenge to overcome the language barrier and bring educational resources to the Latino community, in 1989 the Partners in Learning, Inc. MANOS Early Education Program was established with funding from the Central New York Community Foundation, AXA Equitable (formerly The MONY Group), and a New York State legislative grant. Within a year, MANOS outgrew its space at the Spanish Action League. Pagano approached the Syracuse City School District and in 1990 a partnership was born. The MANOS Early Education Program moved to Blodgett School. The Center began with three families, and today serves 80+ families and children through expanded programming which includes universal pre-kindergarten and Head Start at Seymour Dual Language Academy.
To better serve the community, Partners in Learning broadened the original mission of the MANOS Program to establish the West Side Adult Learning Center (WSLC) in 1992. The WSLC provides training and education programs for other- than- English speaking adults, and for those native English speakers who face literacy challenges. The Center’s focus on adult learning principles makes it a vital part of the community serving more than seven hundred learners annually across a variety of programs designed to assist participants in achieving their full potential. The success of these innovative programs has been demonstrated through the hundreds of ethno-linguistically diverse children and adults who have achieved their educational and employment goals, and become full participants in the fabric of our society.