Sun Serial: A Mother’s Journey | Part 11 — The imperfect storm

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Editor’s note: Since September, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one, a full-fledged director of a Pleasant Street tutoring center set to open early this year. This journey has not been without its roadblocks.

There is no greater feeling than failure. The overwhelming sensation of “not making it” is humbling. It is, at times, the gut-wrenching feeling that is needed to clear your mind, reprioritize your goals and realign your efforts.

The great Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.”

Preach Emerson!

Brooklyn and Evian chill out after a hard day of working at The Learning Hub.

Giselle Rivera-Flores / For Worcester Sun

Brooklyn and Evian chill out after a hard day of working at The Learning Hub.

I am one of those learners. I learn best when things fall apart and are left hanging by the last shred of sanity and willpower. I carry my entire personal brand on this trait. Giselle 2.0, I call it.

Give me a challenge and watch me find a way to overcome it — not always in the most conventional way, but that is beside the point.

In my last submission, I wrote proudly that the door of The Learning Hub would be swung open with a gust of preparation and community support on Jan. 16.

As I write this on Jan. 20, the doors remain as closed as ever.

The anticipated “ice storm” of last week and the lack of business signage — ordered but not yet delivered — caused The Learning Hub to remain closed, canceling the first scheduled event: Paint Day!

But just as Emerson said, these are the moments that I have to learn from. Although the weather on the 16th turned out to be the sunniest day of January yet — thanks, AccuWeather — it proved a point.

I just wasn’t ready.

The Learning Hub sits quietly on 253 Pleasant St. with colorful banners hanging across the ceiling, mixed with rocketships to emphasize our mission to enhance learning and take children to uncharted territory.

Our perfectly built paint easels and paintbrushes positioned neatly on each table stand waiting for the hands of children to open their minds and paint the bright images of their greatest passions. The space looks great.

The Learning Hub was ready for Paint Day ... Mother Nature, not so much.

Giselle Rivera-Flores / For Worcester Sun

The Learning Hub was ready for Paint Day … Mother Nature, not so much.

I mean, my team — Brooklyn, age 8 and Evian, age 4 — did its best work in there.

The days are brighter, despite the despicable below-zero degrees outside. I can only change the things I can control and the sooner I realize that, the sooner I can make changes.

Raynold Lewis, associate dean of education at Worcester State University, is a supporter but he cannot force students to volunteer their time at The Hub, no matter how many educational credits they would receive. So now, we move on. Keep the lines open with Dr. Lewis because he has been an enormous supporter and an inspiration — but create new connections.

Lately, the schedule has been different. It shows promise.

Though my heart lays loyal with Worcester State, and my desire remains for a win-win scenario with fellow Lancers, I have begun to reach out to other colleges and universities. There are 13 colleges in or near Worcester. Maybe, I will receive 12 “nos” during my elevator pitches, but maybe I will receive that one yes I need to make this venture worthwhile for all students, even those in higher education.

I spoke with the Education Department at Holy Cross and sent over my pitch with my fingers crossed behind my back, hoping they see the value in this partnership.

Planting seeds everywhere I went last week, I reached out to Jumpstart as well. If you have never heard of Jumpstart here is a quick overview: Jumpstart is a national organization focusing on the development of children in the early education segment. They boost their volunteers (college students and AmeriCorps members) and launch campaigns to boost literacy and academic skill sets.

I hope to incorporate Jumpstart’s campaigns and its affiliation to AmeriCorps — or just gain a volunteer or two to host book reading events at The Hub.

Giselle's labor force, hard at work sorting books in the office.

Giselle Rivera-Flores / For Worcester Sun

Giselle’s labor force, hard at work sorting books in the office.

But the planting doesn’t end there. You know how they – whoever “they” are – say that social media is the wave of the future? Today, I will agree.

Twitter has been a great source for articles on the tutoring community, business building, and local potential supporters. After scrolling through my Twitter feed for one hopeless hour, I came across a link to StartUp Worcester, a collaboration between the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and Running Start, and their mission is to “incubate new businesses while at the same time retaining entrepreneurial college graduates.”

Of course, in corresponding with the chamber my initial response was, “Have I told you that I am a full-time student attending Worcester State?”

It is a process to be recognized by StartUp Worcester as a potential member. There are applications and deadlines, presentations and a review committee, and did I mention there is a competition? The process seems worthwhile. At the end of the day — here comes a bit of my realism — if I do not become a member and am not selected, I will ultimately receive free publicity for The Hub.

This is a great platform to showcase your elevator pitch and your 30 seconds of “why my business is better than yours” theory, but it is also an exceptional way to spread the word about my mission.

The last email on my bottomless to-do list was sent to Elizabeth Siler, associate professor at Worcester State and head of the new Entrepreneur Center.

Initially, Professor Siler and I were in contact last semester. She was recommended by my advisor, Elizabeth Wark, as a great resource. To my surprise, the new Entrepreneur Center that they spoke about was so new that the program was barely launched. It was just a concept with a few members evolving into a great resource for students and entrepreneurs, so my ability to take advantage of whatever they were offering fell short.

It is now a new semester and in hopes of having some noteworthy affiliation to this new center, I sent the email to Professor Siler explaining that I have now secured a location for The Hub and am two weeks away from opening.

So now, I sit and wait — anxiously and in full ADHD mode — for a result from the many seeds I planted in the last 8 hours.

To follow Giselle’s journey from the beginning:

Part 1 — The Brooklyn trip

Part 2 — The Playbook

Part 3 — The space race

Part 4 — The unsettling score

Part 5 — The point of no return

Part 6 — The poetry of motion

Part 7 — The keys to success

Part 8 — The stumbling block

Part 9 — The Learning Hubby

Part 10 — The next breath

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