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 nonprofit tutoring collaborative that began officially in late January. Her journey, though, is far from over.
“Just keep going.”
I mutter these words to myself every second of the day. I understand with the buildup of momentum comes pressure that can either make or break The Learning Hub.
We are heading on the right path, with a few drawbacks – like funding – weighing heavily on the quality of services we can provide.
Although the Worcester Public Library is supporting the Free Libraries Campaign (which I told you about last time), our initiative is a work in progress as we tangle with the Department of Public Works & Parks over necessary permits and look to the community for continued support.
(The DPW is sure I need a permit, it’s just not sure what kind of permit I need. The free library movement — modest streetside kiosks filled with free books to exchange — would be new to Worcester.)
With WPL’s Summer Reading Kick-off this week, we feel especially inclined to continue pushing our Free Libraries Campaign. Thinking about the many children and adults lacking proper reading materials in their lives fires my motivation to keep going.
With the city of Worcester’s creative movement happening, we are positive about the future of the city and The Learning Hub. While our Free Libraries Campaign may be the first of its kind in the city, it will surely not be the last socially impactful project we spearhead.
Starting a special relationship with Worcester Public Library has been exceptional.
Read Giselle’s previous installment, The way forward, or scroll down to catch up from the beginning.
In August, The Learning Hub will host Maker Mondays at the WPL main branch, at 3 Salem Square, with our STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] maker classes. Starting Aug. 1, The Hub will inhabit the tween area of the Children’s Library and host a series of free classes 11 a.m. to noon every Monday through Aug. 22.
The Maker Monday classes will incorporate art with a Van Gogh lesson and paint lab; science with our “How much water can a cloud hold?” experiment; creative writing with our “Write your own book” discussion; and project and food sustainability, with a discussion about the importance of local foods and healthier food options with a seed-planting project.
We want our students to learn to think for themselves and enrich their lives with experiences and the connections made with peers during these educational journeys.
Part of the rewards from being among the Chamber of Commerce’s StartUp Worcester winners was a year of access to the Running Start coworking spaces on Prescott Street. So now we are thinking of eliminating the overhead of The Hub’s first home base at 253 Pleasant St.
As we progress as a nonprofit organization, keeping the overhead as low as possible is a challenge we will continue to face. Utilizing Running Start will give us access to a work, meeting and collaboration space without the extensive overhead.
But it will take away our ability to host classes within our own space per our own schedule.
The current location of The Learning Hub may cause issues with entering the building in the winter months, a problem we initially did not foresee. Over the next few weeks we will aggressively seek alternate space for the center and are reaching out to many local organizations to inquire about hosting additional classes on site, and collaborating with space.
As members of many of the local educational and discovery institutes, such as the EcoTarium and Massachusetts Audubon Society, we hope to find a central location to incorporate the full potential of these staple learning centers in Worcester.
We want our focus to remain on our purpose and our mission, making it easier for us to make decisions about our space and the direction of our organization as we continue to maintain flexibility and adaptability of our program.
Meeting with SCORE Worcester, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating entrepreneurs and helping small businesses grow, is our next stop. Our mentor will help us with the organizational structure of The Learning Hub; we would like to keep the organization as self-sustaining as possible while implementing the nonprofit aspect.
Funding has been a challenge from the beginning. The organization was bootstrapped by my personal finances, and although we do not see other funding options at the moment, we hope to find a resolution through our SCORE Worcester mentor to fully maximize our opportunities.
Our momentum is growing, and we are receiving the proper traction to take The Hub to the next level in Worcester.
Follow Giselle’s inspiring story from the beginning: