The History and Current Offerings of Adult Education at Wildwood


The Adult Education program at Wildwood offers a wide range of educational and career-based support for people with disabilities. For over two decades, Wildwood has committed to providing this unique service and working with individuals and community partners throughout the Capital Region to provide learning opportunities in literacy, work-related, financial, interpersonal, and wellness skills in order for adults with disabilities to gain greater self-satisfaction and an enhanced quality of life.

A generous donation from Elizabeth H. Rally helped Adult Education get its start at Wildwood in 1999. Since its inception, Adult Ed has focused on two components: The Academy for Lifelong Learning (Adult Education), and Farming and Outdoor Projects. The Adult Education curriculum works alongside all other programs at Wildwood to build upon and enhance individuals’ skills and knowledge so that they are better equipped to participate in an ever-changing world. 

Over 40 courses are divided into Fall and Spring Semesters. Approximately 120 students participate in at least one course offering per year. Students have the opportunity to select the courses they are interested in, and provide their own input in the creation of new ones. All courses fall into five categories: Visual and Performing Arts; Physical Well-Being; Mental Well-Being; Emotional Well-Being; and Financial Well-Being – popular offerings include choir, cooking, self-defense, health advocacy, high school equivalency, computer skills, transition support, and budgeting, among others. 

Students who participate in Adult Education often have a wide range of disabilities, diagnosed or not. These can include complex learning disabilities, mental health conditions, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. Compared to other programs at Wildwood, Adult Education is not funded by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) Medicaid Waiver or the New York State Education Department (NYSED). Approximately 50% of the students that attend classes do not qualify for any of the typical financial supports and services. Wildwood has been able to sustain Adult Education for its entire duration thanks to donations, scholarships, private pay, Wildwood Foundation supports, CSEA Tuition Vouchers, and grants.

Adult Education at Wildwood continues to expand and grow. Capital Region collegiate interns and community volunteers help provide new course offerings; support staff and family members have been welcomed to participate in classes alongside registered students. The new, virtual class format that will be offered in Fall 2020 will open up accessibility and course availability to those who may have transportation or time conflicts, while still providing individualized support and in addition to adhering to the pandemic-imposed social distancing regulations.

The classes offered by Adult Education have played an important role in helping foster independence, friendships, and personal development. For over 20 years, individuals have received education and support through major life events, such as home-buying, debt reduction, and career advancement. Through the wide range of community funding and outside support, as well as the ongoing dedication of staff and participants, Adult Education at Wildwood has withstood the tests of time to remain an important, innovative opportunity for all involved.

If you are interested in learning more or have questions about the Adult Education program, please contact Melinda Burns at The Fall Semester course brochure is now available. Registration forms are due by September 10. If you would like to sign up for a course and/or see which courses are available, please fill out the following form:

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