A Mother’s Journey [Part 47]: The new home frame of mind

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials 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. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

Almost a year ago, The Learning Hub was closing shop.

We had first attempted to bring a creative learning center to the children of Worcester; but most importantly, to the children living in the neighborhoods around Pleasant Street – one of the many forgotten areas in Worcester’s low-income portfolio – and we failed.

Overhead costs were unsustainable, demand for our services was low, and our location was limited in size and growth potential. Through our struggle to attract a broader local community and allow them to see what we offered, we learned the value of mobility and closed our doors at 253 Pleasant St.

Since July 2016, we embraced the concept of mobility and launched a library initiative to bring STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) learning to all of the state’s communities through the revitalization of programming for children in libraries across Massachusetts.

In the 13-plus months since, we have hosted more than 140 classes, at libraries in five cities and towns and have taught more than 2,000 students. Our mission to increase STEAM accessibility to young students has been a success – at least, to the standards of our definition of success.

But the mission is never over, and as we continue to expand to other libraries in Massachusetts, like the Sherborn Public Library and Needham Public Library, we’ve come to realize our expansion options are limited by the almighty dollar.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The business of growing up, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

A Mother’s Journey [Part 42]: The accidental perspective

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials 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. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

Entrepreneurs need motivation.

Motivation to continue with our mission. Motivation to wake up in the morning and face our challenges. Motivation to move past an obstacle even when everyone says we can’t.

Entrepreneur, best-selling author and speaker Gary Vaynerchuk has been tabbed by some with saying the “most motivational statement ever.” In a direct effort to wake people up from a monotonous life filled with complaints about unhappiness and regret, Vaynerchuk strikes a chord by hitting a note most people don’t want to hear: “You’re gonna die.”

Life is precious – no doubt about it – but there is nothing that validates your existence more than a near-death experience. To see the fragility of life firsthand is more than an eye-opener. At times, it is a life-awakener.

Growing up, I was always the adventurous girl in my group of friends. Always riding on the back pegs of bikes without a helmet, rollerblading through traffic down the middle of the New York City streets during a rainstorm. I even consistently found myself a part of car racing groups.

I was fearless then, and nothing seemed dangerous. My mom would plead with me to wear helmets and kneepads. I would sigh and roll my eyes. All I wanted was the feeling of freedom as I raced down the streets and watched the city come to life around me.

I always just thought that she didn’t get me.

Recently on the rainiest of days, my little sister was on her way to New York to enjoy time with friends. As she was driving down I-95 South, she flipped her Ford Explorer and was rushed to the hospital.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The place to start, or scroll down to explore more of her story

A Mother’s Journey [Part 41]: The place to start?

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials 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. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

There is something magical in the air and many people in the know are starting to feel it.

With its strong local collaborations and emerging businesses, Worcester is beginning to be recognized outside the city limits as much as inside them as a new leader in the startup world — and rightfully so.

Per recent data released by TechNet and the Progressive Policy Institute and reported by Axios.com, Worcester is lumped in with larger cities — from Philadelphia; to Nashville, Tennessee; to Portland, Oregon — as being among the nation’s emerging startup hubs.

While statistics are starting to add up to recognition that Worcester is a hub of innovative entrepreneurs, we have known this for quite some time.

Known as a center of manufacturing as far back as 150 years ago, Worcester has always served as an incubator for industries, so it is no surprise to me that we are collectively regaining our title.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The stress test, or scroll down to explore more of her story

A Mother’s Journey [Part 39]: The parent trap

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, 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 nonprofit tutoring collaborative that began officially in late January 2016 but has transformed considerably since. During her journey she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

We have seven family vacation blocks every year, and the February school break is one.

Normally, this is our week to drive to Washington, D.C., to enjoy the Smithsonian museums and add a little more creative education for the girls. This year, we had to take a detour.

Not only is this is our first February vacation as a full-on homeschooling family, but Evian and Brooklyn had recently been battling the flu. So we put down the books, gave the girls a break and tried to enjoy the week on a local scale.

With an abbreviated schedule of classes at The Learning Hub last week, there was extra time to spend with the family, and it was a break we all needed.

Accustomed to a full schedule, I, of course, packed the week with daily entertainment and activities. With no less than 10 outings since President’s Day, we were able to forget about D.C. and focus on enjoying our time together. But guess who has the flu now?

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The time trials, or scroll down to explore more of her story

A Mother’s Journey [Part 38]: The time trials

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, 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 nonprofit tutoring collaborative that began officially in late January 2016 but has transformed considerably since. During her journey she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

When a child is facing a learning challenge – a term I don’t like to use to describe Brooklyn’s ADHD – there are days that seem impossible. On these days, time becomes the enemy and energy becomes an underachiever.

Meetings are canceled to give more attention to Brook and her studies, and dinner is ordered from a local eatery because even making a family meal seems a bridge too far. While these days are rare, they do happen and they turn my week into a game of “catch-up.”

And that’s OK.

For me, there are no secrets to success. I believe one of the main things needed to be successful – whether it is in academics, business or in life – is an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. Before attempting to conquer the world, you must understand your abilities.

Capitalizing on your strengths is how you become successful, and that is what I try to teach Brooklyn and Evian.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The growing pains, or scroll down to explore more of her story

A Mother’s Journey [Part 37]: The growing pains

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, 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 nonprofit tutoring collaborative that began officially in late January 2016 but has transformed considerably since. During her journey she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

Worcester Public Library, Wayland Free Public Library and Lincoln Public Library are among the first libraries to have added The Learning Hub’s maker programs to their children’s activity calendars.

And while the growing success of The Learning Hub is one to be proud of, it comes with a revolving list of challenges. Converting an idea into a viable business sounds like the toughest part of being an entrepreneur, but as time passes, I continue to learn that keeping things afloat is harder than anyone could have told me.

Whether I am battling to add grant money to the budget to maintain enough materials for a year-long program, or passing out flyers looking for volunteers, I am, more often than not, a one-woman show trying to keep hold of all the loose ends.

I am the marketing department. I am human resources. I am the web developer. I am the teacher. I am the program coordinator. But most of all, I am the only one at the end of the day who scratches off all the things from the to-do list.

I am a big believer in being self-sufficient and relying on your own talents, but I am becoming forcefully aware that I am only one person — and that has limitations.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The model students, or scroll down to explore more of her story

Jordan Levy

Worcester Sun, Jan. 29-Feb. 4: Mariano on Jordan Levy, Aud thoughts, Carberry’s legacy + much more

Also, it’s all about that raise on Beacon Hill. Sinacola goes to Budapest (returns with more Trump perspective). Hitch goes to the museum (haven’t seen him since). And a Worcester State student leader chronicles the trials and triumph of a journey to D.C. for the historic inaugural in a free-to-read guest commentary. All that and much more in your Jan. 29-Feb. 4 Worcester Sun.

Worcester Weekly: Clark vs. WPI, Assumption vs. cancer + much more, Jan. 22-28

Tuesday, Jan. 24 — Let’s Put Worcester on the Map: A Google Workshop with Peter Dunn, 5:30-7 p.m., Worcester Public Library, 3 Salem Square  Cartography’s making a comeback — it’s about darn time, isn’t it?! We can only hope calligraphy is next. And then maybe needlepoint — we miss those kitchen-wall words of wisdom. Alas, we digress. Mostly because there’s no comeback tour on the horizon. Unless you count the simmering small business revival in the city.

And that’s what Peter Dunn — a city employee who’s played a pivotal role in boosting many startups, including Giselle Rivera-FloresThe Learning Hub — is here to talk about: getting your business, and its downtown or Tatnuck Square or Grafton Hill address, in front of as many eyes as possible. Technology is a wonderful thing — except for cartographers.

For more information

Wednesday, Jan. 25 — “Last Frontier” exhibit Opening Reception, 5:15-6:30 p.m., Cantor Art Gallery, College of the Holy Cross, 1 College St.  Nerd alert: Important to note that this is not an exhibition of “Star Trek”-related art. Besides, that’s the “final frontier,” anyway, Poindexter … and you call yourself a nerd?! No, these are the (artistic) voyages of a diverse set of Latin American photographers, sculptors and videographers who set out to explore the “subjectivity of territory.”

A Mother’s Journey [Part 36]: The model students

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, 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 nonprofit tutoring collaborative that began officially in late January 2016 but has transformed considerably since. During her journey she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

January 2016 was a different time in our lives.

It was filled with anxiety and frustration from our experiences with Brooklyn’s education and it was a tipping point for me as an entrepreneur. It was a time that we defined as the beginning of a new lifestyle and now, as we sit smack in the middle of January 2017, we can see how far we have grown as a homeschool family.

When my husband, Jaime, and I made the ultimate decision to withdraw Brooklyn from Worcester Public Schools, we did so with little knowledge of how to implement a homeschool curriculum, structure our day or remain the best versions of ourselves for Brooklyn and our younger daughter, Evian.

It was a critical moment, and while we had no idea what to expect from Brooklyn, or ourselves, we were resolved to never look back.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The resolution revolution, or scroll down to explore more of her story