2013 E Pluribus Unum WINNER
Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School
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Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, based in Washington, DC, is the nation’s first adult-focused charter school and is a nationally recognized leader in the field of work-focused English and skills training. Founded in 1970, the Carlos Rosario School has helped more than 60,000 adult students who are immigrants or refugees learn English, obtain educational degrees and workforce certifications that allow them to start jobs and climb career ladders, and become US citizens, voters, and home owners.
Established as a small grassroots organization and later evolving to a charter model, the Carlos Rosario School grew from its roots teaching English to offer cutting-edge adult basic education and workforce training programs coupled with comprehensive support services that dramatically boost student success. The school serves more than 3,000 adult students annually, offering morning, afternoon, and evening classes to meet the needs of its nontraditional and often working student body.
The Carlos Rosario School has enrolled students from 78 countries, who speak more than 35 different languages. Drawing on bilingual staff and faculty members and a wide range of community volunteers, the school supports newcomers on the pathway to linguistic, economic, and civic integration through a wide range of workshops, volunteer and internship opportunities, and community celebrations.
FOCUS ON EXCELLENCE: Helping Immigrants Fulfill Their Potential in the Workforce
The Carlos Rosario School has developed a nationally recognized model for improving educational and professional outcomes for adult learners, particularly those with an immigrant background. Its innovative instructional model aligns English instruction that is contextualized for workplace needs with high-demand and good-paying jobs in the Washington metro area. Its comprehensive integration success services include career and financial counseling, medical referrals, tax preparation help, and immigration advice.
The school, which developed from the Program for English Instruction to Latin Americans (PEILA) launched by its namesake Carlos Manuel Rosario, grew from a desire to address critical problems created by language barriers and the lack of culturally appropriate information available to the immigrant community in Washington, DC.
A new, 50,000-foot workforce development center, the Sonia Gutierrez Campus, named for the woman who has led the school for more than 40 years, was inaugurated in October 2013.
Sonia Gutierrez has spent more than 40 years as an education leader, with the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter she leads serving more than 60,000 adult immigrant students to date. Her vision has changed countless lives and she continues to inspire students, staff, and thousands who have benefited from her commitment and contributions to the Washington, DC community.
Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, Ms. Gutierrez received a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in adult education specializing in supervision and administration of adult education programs.
She began her literacy career in the District of Columbia Public Schools 1972 as a counselor to the Program for English Instruction to Latin Americans (PEILA). She later became PEILA’s Director, and in that role was instrumental in transforming the small, underfunded nonprofit organization into a comprehensive adult education program. That adult education program eventually became the nonprofit Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, a vibrant center for learning that provides 3,000 students annually with instruction and comprehensive support services. In 1998, the school became the first adult public charter school in the nation.
Presently Ms. Gutierrez is focused on ensuring the growth and long-term sustainability of the school's award-winning model. In 2013 a new workforce development campus, located in northeast DC, was named in her honor, the Sonia Gutierrez Campus.
Ms. Gutierrez has also been involved in the social and economic development of the Latino community in Washington, DC. In 1977, she founded the Council of Latino Agencies. She was instrumental in establishing the Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs and presided over the Latino Festival. She is past President of the Metropolitan Association of Adult and Continuing Education, as well as the DC Commission for Women and the Latin Community Development Commission.
In 1987, Ms. Gutierrez was named Washingtonian of the Year. She was also inducted into the Washington Women’s Hall of Fame by the DC Commission of Women. In 2013 the Commission on Adult Basic Education named Ms. Gutierrez Educator of the Year, and two years earlier Mayor Vincent Gray honored Ms. Gutierrez as the "International Woman of the Year." In 2001 she was one of the first four inductees to the Hall of Fame of the National Charter Schools.