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 that opened in late January. Her journey, though, is far from over.
Social entrepreneurship has become an attractive label for new businesses producing a socially positive outcome with a hint of innovation and entrepreneurial charm. Making a difference for society has become something many businesses, whether nonprofit or for-profit, have emphasized more and more.
The Learning Hub is transforming into a socially driven nonprofit with new ideas about business strategies and the perception of relying on government funds and community donations.
Seeing the problem firsthand — the lack of resources provided at a public school level including one-on-one time with students, additional learning supplements and the integration of science, math and history classes — The Hub has set out to improve the entire educational ecosystem with inventive, supplemental approaches.
And to be honest, since opening in January and despite being tapped by the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce as a StartUp Worcester 2016 winner, attracting a steady stream of students — and revenue — to the Hub has proved difficult. Finding new forms of funding is essential.
Read Giselle’s most recent chapter, The new direction, or scroll down to start from the beginning.
With the mission in mind to reduce educational inconsistencies within the K-6 student community, and to connect effectively with struggling students in hopes of reducing crime and poverty, we turned to the nonprofit sector to help raise capital needed to sustain the initial overhead of the organization.
Though costs vary in the state, the Hub was facing a $700 investment to register for nonprofit status and with a budgeted overhead of only $600 per month, the expense seems a bit much. When I looked into potential partnerships, the organization SocialGood seemed to offer great potential as a fiscal sponsor.
SocialGood is a nonprofit organization creating a platform of sponsorships for projects throughout the country in need of getting their programs launched without enduring the harsh expenses attached to the nonprofit label. For a small monthly fee, $29, SocialGood agreed to provide fiscal sponsorship to The Learning Hub – allowing us to act as a nonprofit under their umbrella while focusing on our mission and not the bottom line.
In recent weeks, it seems, becoming a project of SocialGood has opened doors for the Hub with local organizations. Envisioning The Hub full of students taking a creative writing class after reading about Hemingway or taking a Picasso paint lab after discovering the importance of art and life through Cubism is all that we can think about. This feels closer to reality now.
The nonprofit status allows us to offer another level of services. We’ve added a sliding rate scale, which still starts with our initial $15/hour tutoring services but includes free options for low-income families.
I am hoping to attract grant money from the national and local level. I reached out to the Greater Worcester Community Foundation, which directed me to a list of available grants, and I have explored grants from the city for art programs. With this, the hope is to add a science or art teacher to lead weekend classes.
Adding affordable resources in areas of dire need, such as the Pleasant Street area in Worcester, isn’t about revitalizing the physical space but instead looking at the obstacles and struggles of the everyday family and giving them the outlet to spark their own change.
In other developments at the Hub, we are exploring working with the Regional Environmental Council of Worcester to improve education about food sustainability through community gardens and farming events, and also attempting to work with ArtsWorcester to increase exposure of the arts to Learning Hub students.
Working with organizations like these and hopefully others such as Main Idea, which hosts arts-based camps for inner city kids, will allow us to fully utilize the name “The Hub” in our creation of a centrally located space filled with innovation, creativity and knowledge.
We want to branch out, and in a big way.
We hope someday to take this concept to other inner cities in America struggling with the same issues. While there are many youth centers focused on a place for children to have their own space in a safe environment, the one thing they are missing is consistency. Many of these existing programs host tutoring classes on specific days due to the lack of proper grant funding and an appropriate staff or volunteer roster, making it difficult to offer a program with optimal results.
While we are a nonprofit project, we intend to create a different business model. While many of our non-believers think that charging a family $15 an hour for tutoring services and weekend labs is “outrageous” and “defeats the point of having an affordable center,” we disagree.
We want The Hub to flourish and eventually reduce its dependence on government grants. We want a program that lasts in Worcester and that can be installed in cities across the United States.
Creating consistency is paramount to addressing any issue, and at The Hub we believe in building in a little value and experience too. But the biggest thing for me, my daughter Brooklyn and the scores of kids in Worcester just like her, is the promise of possibility.
Follow Giselle’s inspiring story from the beginning: