Valley Regional Adult Education’s new home can only mean more opportunity for those Valley adults seeking to expand their education.

That’s the word from Debra Hansen, director of Valley Regional Adult Education, which has finished its move into offices in the Richard O. Belden Cultural Center, 54 Grove Street. The ribbon cutting unveiling the new quarters will be Thursday, Aug. 15, with a community open house set for Aug. 21 from 1 to 3:30 p.m.

“I am beyond thrilled to be in this space,” said Hansen, who taught in the Valley Regional Adult Education high school credit diploma program for seven years from 2001-2007 before returning as the program’s director last year.

“This is the breath of fresh air for our program that we needed,” added Hansen, “and hopefully, we can continue to expand our offerings now that we are in one location moving forward. Now we can meet with students when we need to. We’re not in separate locations. We’re all in the same place.”

Valley Regional Adult Education, established in 1969, is the first regional adult education agency in the state and has provided residents in Shelton, Seymour, Monroe, Ansonia and Derby for five decades free academic programs as well as numerous enrichment classes offered in each Valley community.

“We are so pleased Seymour donated six smart boards (to the new location),” said Hansen, “and I am hoping that with the new technology in our rooms, too, this will feel more like a modern-day classroom for our students and teachers.”

Valley Regional Adult Education’s academic programming was housed in two locations — in the Conti building, 415 Howe Avenue, and space next to Center Stage Theatre in the lower level of the Belden building. Now, the program has two classrooms with the main offices on the main level and four classrooms with two other offices upstairs at the Belden building.

The academic programming includes GED, adult high school credit diplomas, citizenship classes and English as a Second Language classes. This programming is free to Valley residents, and the facility is open 12 months a year with day and evening classes. In all, Valley Regional Adult Education serves 400 students in ESL, CDP, GED and citizenship, which accounts for approximately 1300 class enrollments a year, not including enrichment registrations.

Enrichment programs, which have a fee, are classes for adults in Arts & Crafts, Career & Work, Cooking, Dance, Digital Photography, Fitness, Garden, Home, Mind & Body, Personal Development, Recreation, Technology, and World Languages, among others. Classes are held in local schools and studios or online. There are also once a month bus trips to New England and New York attractions.

“Our goal was to make sure all these academic programs were in one location,” said Hansen. “The Conti building was great, the school was there for 20 years, but it did not feel like a school. These feel like classrooms. They give the feel of the pride of coming back to school, because for some adults it can be difficult to return to school or make that decision to come back to finish their high school diploma. This offers a genuine classroom feel.”

Hansen said Valley Regional Adult Education is important because without a high school diploma, people face limited opportunities, whether in increasing personal income or attempting to enter higher education.

“Anybody who returns to get their high school diploma has choices to go on to a community college, learn a trade, but without that piece of paper, they are limited in how much they’ll ever make for their families, what they can do for their families, how they provide, and how they give back to their communities, because if they are just barely surviving, they can’t give back in their own communities.”

For more information on Valley Regional Adult Education, visit www.vrae.org .

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com