The Catherine McAuley Center

The Catherine McAuley Center

People embrace opportunities to better themselves,

their families, and their community.

By:Kayla Story

The Catherine McAuley Center (CMC) is an organization that is located in Cedar Rapids Iowa.  The organization helps refugees and immigrants with adjusting to the United States.  CMC does not offer large classes with students.  Instead it's one on one or a small group.  They offer English as a second language classes from beginning to advanced.  CMC also has basic math, preparation for both the GED and U.S. Citizenship exam.  The tutors can also work with them on workbooks which I have pictures of.  CMC has volunteer just to sit and talk with them.  A lot of times when they come to CMC it's the only time they have to practice their English.  There are many staff there that will go the extra mile to make people feel as comfortable as possible.  The staff there can speak many languages including, English, Spanish, French, Swahili, Kinyarwanda, and Kirundi.  The center has a well-stocked food bank that anyone can come and grab what they want and no questions asked.

The Catherine McAuley Center was founded in 1989 by the sisters of Mercy.  It was named after a woman named Catherine McAuley who was alive from 1778-1841.  She founded the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin Ireland.  She loved helping others and throughout her entire life she helped to educate women.  CMC was first founded to offer education to women studying for their General Education but CMC started to grow.  The Transitional Housing Program was introduced for women without children.  They quickly outgrew the first space and had to move to a new and bigger location.  They found their current place on and have been there ever since.

In the years since CMC has been there they have been adapting to the different needs for students.  In the Mid 1990’s Cedar Rapids had a huge immigrant population that was thriving so the center added English as a Second Language tutoring, US Citizenship Exam Preparation, and establishing the Adult Basic Education Program that is open to both women and men.  The most recent service that was added in 2017 is immigrant and refugee’s resettlement program.  The program started with serving 15 people the first year to serving 500 people annually today.  The center has help people from 52 different countries.  Most of the students they help are from these countries; Sudan, Liberia, Somalia, Uganda, Nigeria, Syria, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam. 

An image of Anne smiling after finishing our interview

I interviewed Anne Dugger who is the Education Program Manager at CMC.  She has a B.A. in English from Coe College.  She loves teaching and helping students to learn new skills through language and education.  Dugger quotes that, “the center always needs volunteers and supplies.  If you want to volunteer your time that would be great because we are always looking for new people.”  She goes on to say that, “we could always use more supplies like, canned food, furniture, cleaning supplies, school supplies, and personal items.  Anything you give goes to a needy person”.  Dugger finally mentions that you can sign up for AmazonSmile.  She quotes, “AmazonSmile is the same Amazon that we all know.  The difference is that we you shop on AmazonSmile 0.5% of your purchase goes to the organization of your choice.”

 Mari Hunt Wassink teaches her students about sentence structure


This is a picture of Mari Hunt Wassink using the whiteboard.  Wassink who is the Education Program Coordinator and has been working there since June of 2017.  She quotes that she, “likes working for an organization that respects people looking to empower themselves”.  She is teaching her four Vietnamese students that have been in the US for the past few years.  She is writing the sentence “Thanksgiving is on Thursday”.  The students are practicing writing this sentence for their upcoming citizenship exam.  She said to the students that it would be common to write a sentence on the test like the one she wrote.

This is a picture of a student named Pamela Obi, who is from Liberia, and she has been in the US for a few years.  She has been coming to Catherine McAuley Center since 21 February 2017.  She said to her tutor, Jane Roberts, that she is excited to celebrate her one year of coming to CMC.  Roberts said that they would have a party for her.  Obi is practicing reading a paragraph at of her workbook.  Roberts said that she is a great student and a great conversationalist.

 Pamela Obi is reading a paragraph at of her workbook



This is a picture of Jane Roberts the tutor from the second picture.  Roberts has been a tutor at CMC since the beginning of this summer and she has a degree in English.  She quotes that she, “loves coming here and tutoring students.  She loves seeing that magic in the student eye when they finally get it.” 




Jane Roberts listens as Pamela Obi is reading a paragraph for her workbook

The Man from Sudan is listening carefully as Susan Lewis teaches


This is a picture of a man who is from Sudan who wanted to keep his name anonymous and his tutor Susan Lewis.  Susan has been a tutor for several years and is very passionate about teaching minds.  The man has been coming for a few months and has been in the US for several years.  He comes every week and works on his workbook.  During this tutoring session the man is listening carefully as Lewis is explaining the civil war and Abraham Lincoln involvement in the war.  The man was trying his best to say the word “Emancipation Proclamation” and by the end he aced it.