Living in the era of Internet communication, with billions of people focused on interacting over Wi-Fi signals, I am thrilled to be building a space intended for direct human interaction and education.
Boosting the entrance of The Learning Hub with a sign that reads: “We do not have WiFi. Talk to each other. Pretend it’s 1995” – a sign inspired by a photo gone viral from a café in Annapolis, Maryland — has given the space the exact feel it needs to enrich community interaction and development.
The online world of education has given us a platform of constant evolution and self-growth – one that I have taken advantage of over the years and has helped millions of others add new skill sets to their resumes and advancements in their academic careers.
But with families unable to afford computers, Internet access and with the need for face-to-face learning, The Learning Hub has taken a step back to the basics.
“Students need a space that can allow them the hands-on learning they need with a creative approach to address all learning styles. The standardized system of assuming all children learn and develop in the same form is nuts. Schools cannot cater to children individually, but additional programs can and these programs shouldn’t cost families thousands of dollars every year,” says Jaime Flores, my husband.
Jaime, unlike me, is a Worcester native. He has grown through the Worcester Public Schools system and has seen firsthand the struggles of his peers in academic settings and the lack of supplemental support. He has seen the borders that outline low-income families and separate them from better educational options – opportunities that should be given to all students in a public school setting.
“Some teachers say there isn’t enough time in the schedule to help children individually or enough time to review topics with better clarity, but that has been the case for many decades,” he says. “This isn’t a new battle, and I am here to help add on some creative roles to learning at The Hub, even if it means we help a few students at a time.”
Between working with FedEx, running a photography business and supporting me in my decision to leave the corporate world, Jaime has been a huge part of transforming The Hub into a great space with ambitious intentions.
Coming from a working-class family with little English spoken at home, Jaime understands the thoughts behind our concept labs like Science Project 2.0.
“My mother was unable to help me with schoolwork. She didn’t speak a lot of English at the time and my father worked hours on end. That’s all there was in my house. Work and more work. So for school science projects or large projects, I did them on my own – despite struggling to complete it so I can understand what some students are facing today,” he says.
With The Hub’s soft launch approaching in the New Year, Jaime and I have been spending more time there than at home.
“This project has allowed us to take a closer look at our family and give a deeper thought into what our goals are as a whole,” he said to a group of friends at a dinner we hosted a few weeks back.
“What are the kinds of experiences and interactions we want our girls to be a part of, and how they view us as parents in this time of transition are the questions we find ourselves thinking about. This project has placed an enormous emphasis on how we will transition into 2016 and I am excited about it,” he added.
You see, when you have decided to make a change in your personal life that seems “out-of-the-norm” – a phrase I use loosely, as nothing I have ever done has been normal – it tends to become a forum for open discussion among friends and family.
It’s a time where everyone becomes an expert in your new endeavors and offers valuable – or, y’know, not so much – advice.
Friends, at dinner, discussed how the online world of instant education seems to be a more profitable venture than opening a small space for in-person training.
“Giselle, why don’t you build a website that offers online tutoring? I see ads for sites like this all the time. Seems logical and has little-to-no overhead,” says a friend. “Let’s be real. Who doesn’t have Internet these days?”
Another friend says, “If I had the option to stay home and learn from my computer or go out and meet with a tutor in person, I would definitely stay home. I mean, why go anywhere when everything can come to me?
“We live in a world where you have to adapt to technology or you will be left behind.”
And more help.
“You guys just lost some of your tutors, right? So now what? You guys become tutors overnight?” asked another friend with an unearthly, nervous smile as if the purpose of our dinner was to ask her to sign up as a tutor.
Dinner turned out to be a dud.
With a table full of unimpressed smiles and mild congratulations, Jaime decided to address the party accordingly, and it was monumental:
“The Learning Hub isn’t about the bottom line. Do we hope to make a profit? Absolutely. That is needed to sustain the business and my wife, but profit isn’t the driving force behind The Hub. Our mission is bigger than that,” he told the group.
“Maybe we want to help the families and students that are left behind because of their financial inability to adapt to technology or adjust to the lack of study time at school. If we are so lucky enough to adapt to change and be able to evolve and continue to gain the competitive advantage we need to succeed, then why not share that with others? Why not take that opportunity and present it to those that would otherwise never have a chance?
“My wife may be a little overly ambitious with her new project – as she usually is – but her mission to generate this space is filled with great reasons and I’m with it all the way,” said Jaime. “We hope to see you all at the opening.”