The Maura Clarke – Ita Ford (MCIF) Center

New Beginnings at MCIF

We’re excited to announce that our merger with Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow (OBT) is complete, and we are now the Maura Clarke – Ita Ford Adult Literacy Program. This means that 1) our administrative expenses have been greatly reduced, 2) we now have a permanent home, and 3) we can help more immigrant women achieve their personal and professional goals, continuing the legacy of Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford.

New Home: We’ve settled into our new home at OBT’s Bushwick Workforce Resource Center (BWRC), and are enjoying having our classes in the newly renovated classrooms and state-of-the-art computer lab. At 280 Wyckoff Avenue, the BWRC is located in the heart of Bushwick and only ½ mile from Ridgewood, Queens.

New Offerings: MCIF is happy to announce that we now offer 5 levels of ESOL, from beginner to very advanced. Our participants can now take a variety of job training and computer classes through OBT, and are able to access all the citizenship services they need through the Office of New Americans program at the BWRC.


The aim of the Center is to provide opportunities for developing self-esteem, individual growth, and educational learning skills that will enable women and men to claim and realize their own potential.


The Story Behind Our Name

On December 2, 1980 two MaryKnoll Sisters,Maura Clarke, MM and Ita Ford, MM, arrived in El Salvador after attending a MaryKnoll conference in Managua, Nicaragua. The women were met by Dorothy Kazel, an Ursuline Sister, and Jean Donovan, a lay missionary. Unbeknownst to the four women, they were under surveillance by the La Guardia Nacionál, the Salvadoran National Guardsmen. Shortly after their departure from the airport, five guardsmen who were out of uniform stopped the van in which the women were traveling in. The soldiers then beat, raped, and murdered them. The bodies of the women were found the next morning.

The four missionaries worked tirelessly for the poor of El Salvador until their deaths. It was this work that inspired the creation of the Center. Maura Clarke, MM and Ita Ford, MM were originally from Queens and Brooklyn.

Our Beginning

The concept of starting a center for women in Brooklyn stemmed from a group of religious women who had been meeting since the late 70’s. Mostly from the fields of education and community organizing, they continuously saw the frustration of women living in poverty, especially in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Despite the energy and talent of these immigrant women, they lacked options for the future and financial security for their families.

In 1993, the religious women met with Bushwick community members to speak about the creation of a center. Together, they discussed ideas for the project, established goals and objectives, and composed the mission statement. They decided to name the Center after the two Maryknoll Sisters, Maura Clarke, MM and Ita Ford, MM, who were originally from Queens and Brooklyn. Sister Mary Burns, SC opened the doors to The Maura Clarke-Ita Ford Center in the summer of 1993 and MCIF Center has continued the legacy and work of Maura and Ita ever since. MCIF Center has become a staple for adult education in Brooklyn since its inception and has assisted thousands of individuals in bettering their lives through education.


Program Description

  • English for Speakers of Other Languages
    Provides bilingual classroom and computer-based instruction. All forms of English language skills are covered: grammar, reading, writing, listening comprehension and speaking. The five ESOL classes range from beginning level to advanced, and take place during the day, which is ideal for mothers with school aged children.
    Monday to Thursday – 9:30am-12:00pm
  • Computer-Training for English-Language Learners
    Enables women to gain basic computer skills and an introduction to Microsoft Word; instruction is bilingual.
    Tuesday to Thursday– 12:15pm to 2:15pm


  • Each year, MCIF serves approximately 100 women
  • 80% of participants in ESOL classes will advance at least one level
  • 85% of those in computer training classes will complete at least one semester
  • 50% of women will successfully enroll in OBT’s job-readiness classes; High School Equivalency (HSE) classes; advanced computer-training; citizenship preparation services; or take advantage of social services in the areas of child care, healthcare, and housing.