A Mother’s Journey: The tipping point

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

In his debut book “The Tipping Point,” Malcolm Gladwell wrote: “In the late 1960s, a television producer named Joan Ganz Cooney set out to start an epidemic. Her target was three-, four-, and five-year-olds. Her agent of infection was television, and the ‘virus’ she wanted to spread was literacy. The show would last an hour and run five days a week, and the hope was that if that hour was contagious enough it could serve as an educational Tipping Point: giving children from disadvantaged homes a leg up once they began elementary school, spreading pro-learning values from watchers to non-watchers, infecting children and their parents, and lingering long enough to have an impact well after the children stopped watching the show. … She called her idea ‘Sesame Street.’ ”

Gladwell calls this the stickiness factor. In discovering that making “small but critical adjustments in how they presented ideas to preschoolers,” Malcolm wrote, “they could overcome television’s weakness as a teaching tool and make what they had to say memorable.”

In concept, I, too, look to produce such an epidemic of proportionate educational value that the children who attend The Learning Hub will generate a level of stickiness for us, so that we start to discuss more serious methods of how we teach our children in our public schools. We want them to have a leg up as they make their way through the winding paths of what is our current school system.

But as many parents like me believe, the current school system is not up to par, and with that void in the market, the Hub’s stickiness factor can be a bit more contagious.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The shape of the city, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

A Mother’s Journey: The gauntlet of transitions

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

“It’s in transition.” That phrase has become the (mostly) unwritten slogan of my life – both personally and professionally.

Buried in every crevice of growth is the undertone of transition. Its double-sided presence adheres to us as both confidence and anxiety — all while promising a better tomorrow.

Transition is the “process or a period of changing from one state to another,” and while the definition portrays an image of physical change, transition, for me, is truly internal. And it happens every second of the day.

It happens in the depths of chaos and in the bliss of growth. It happens through each human interaction, and lack thereof. Transition is a thin line in the world of entrepreneurship that makes us tiptoe across the tightrope of obstacles while juggling the rest of our lives and carrying what feels like the weight of the world on our shoulders.

As we approach our second year of homeschooling our daughters Brooklyn and Evian, we are accompanied by many transitions: new grade levels, new expectations, new schedules and new changes. Transition is the shadow that never leaves. Unless you have given up on the path of life you’ve chosen – and we have no intention of doing so.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The ‘Mini’ Series, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

Joe's Albums

Worcester Sun, Aug. 20: Mariano on Trump, Joe’s Albums, Little Free Libraries, dark tourism + more

Sun columnist

Mariano: We have no choice: Trump must go! | “Donald Trump has lost the moral authority to lead our nation. His words and actions have weakened our country, given safe haven to hate and bigotry and diminished our nation in the eyes of the world.”

More Ray on Trump:

Donald Trump is breaking my heart — the five stages of Trump
What happens if Trump gets impeached
Rating Trump’s staff and cabinet selections

Local Business Spotlight

Joe’s Albums helps lead resurgence of vinyl & retail on Main Street | “Between size and proximity, I wanted to get more ‘central’ and larger. I had looked in the Canal District … then looked down here and saw all of the development going on and thought that was very intriguing. … I think Worcester is truly coming back this time.” Art Simas reports on the place where vinyl records and retail are making a comeback.

A Mother’s Journey: The sincerest form of thievery

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 no such thing as a new idea,” Mark Twain famously wrote in his 1907 autobiography. “It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

He couldn’t have said it better.

Originality is an ambiguous concept, it seems, leading many of us to believe the thoughts and ideas we create are somehow impartial, uninfluenced by the world around us. It leads us to believe creativity is somehow only sparked from within and not an element molded by the experiences and lessons from life.

The world around us is a bottomless pit of discovery, with every new encounter leaving us a new impression and a fresh outlook. Yet, entrepreneurs and business owners tend to forget that their “creative spark” was ignited by their environment — by the people and conversations around them — and not from some untouched segment of their brain.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The inner-city detour, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

A Mother’s Journey: The inner-city detour

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

The gap between rich and the poor affects all aspects of American life. While it should never impact a child’s chance to receive a good education, there remains an obvious schism at the center of many a school-related controversy.

A pronounced funding rift is often cited as the main reason behind failing or underperforming schools, and more and more seems to be among the top determinants — along with parent engagement, which also lags in lower-income areas — of whether a child will excel in school or fall into the cracks of the nation’s achievement gap.

Founding The Learning Hub was an attempt to break through the barriers of financial disadvantages and shine a light on a group of students in inner cities that otherwise lack key supportive academic services.

From personal experience, I learned higher-income cities and towns equal more academic support services and better schools, while low-income towns and cities like Worcester consistently lack similar supports and struggling students are shuffled up through the ranks of what I see as a failing school system.

Last August, The Atlantic published, “Good School, Rich School; Bad School, Poor School,” and it remains one of my consistent motivators since launching The Hub. The article looks at the state of Connecticut and breaks down the school system based on location. It ultimately leads to an unsurprising finding: schools in better neighborhoods receive better access to wraparound services while schools in poor neighborhoods are left wanting.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The look of leadership, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

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