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. During her journey she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.
Only a day away from our first Maker Monday class at Worcester Public Library, and we find ourselves launching this program during a fortuitous time of economic development in Worcester. The city has faced many challenges but I feel like there is no greater time to boost the morale and needs of our community than now.
Maker Monday — a four-week series of STEAM [STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, classes, with Art incorporated] courses at the library’s main branch — are just the beginning of The Learning Hub’s latest launch.
With hourlong classes for 9- to 12-year-olds centering on Van Gogh, the science of clouds, creative writing, food sustainability and environmental literacy, we look to leverage what we consider the city’s greatest educational needs into a viable, fully comprehensible early-development tool for students. The free classes will be held from 11 a.m. to noon on Aug. 1, Aug. 8, Aug. 15 and Aug. 22.
Breathing new life into the interactive programs of the library, we will strive to keep students engaged, excited and yearning for new learning material. For the nonprofit Hub, once envisioned as a tutoring center on Pleasant Street, this venture with the library is a first step in our goal of reaching and helping many young people.
It is fair to say that our journey has not been one without a few potholes, but throughout the path less traveled, our entrepreneurial spirit has given us the motivation needed to create and integrate a program that can make a difference in the lives of many.
Read Giselle’s most recent chapter, The stemming of the tide, or scroll down to start from earlier in her journey
Enriching the lives of children at an early age by increasing their access to fine arts, culture and critical thinking is something that can fundamentally transform their future paths.
My exposure to literature and the arts at an early age made a significant impact on who I am today. It has transformed my path to adulthood in the way that I can appreciate and empathize with different cultures, gain knowledge through artistic expression and even fulfill my personal aspirations as a writer. If my mother did not plan visits to the museums that filled the city of New York and take me to every nearby library to pique my interest in reading, my life would be much different. I could never imagine it.
I remember walking through the halls of the Museum of Fine Arts in New York as a young child with my mom and being blown away by the masterpieces that hung on the walls, perfectly mantled to create an unforgettable impression. I remember my eighth-grade teacher recommending Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Self-Reliance” to read over summer vacation, and as I read each page that promoted individualism and self-worth I envisioned a life as a writer — hoping to write an essay, short story or poem that would invoke a deep sentiment of thought as Emerson did for me.
What surrounded my life as I grew up in New York are the same elements that surround me as an adult here in Worcester. I pass these experiences on to my daughters, hoping that their eyes widen with interest and their minds expand with ideas.
Although we are your average middle-American family, we live our lives to the beat of our own drums. We take family days and spend countless hours visiting museums and exploring new bookstores, and making time for the things that comprise who we are.
Brooklyn is encouraged at every turn to focus on her art and her love for science. We allow her to explore the world through her perspective, and while little Evian is only growing into her interests, we also encourage her to take on drawing projects and making picture books to help increase her interest in stories.
For me and my husband, Jamie, our experiences throughout life have taught us to develop these interests within our children. And that is my ultimate goal at The Learning Hub. The upcoming library program is one way we want to help families and students develop their passions and find their talents through the exposure of life beyond the four walls of school.
The world that surrounds us as we grow from child to adult can either make us or break us. If my teachers never encouraged me to submit my writing for showcased school competitions and my experiments for science fairs, I might not be where I am now.
Every good parent wants to engage their children beyond the walls of traditional schools, but many are unable to do so due to work schedules, single-family homes, financial burdens, lack of transportation options and more. The Learning Hub stands to give these families a place to soak up all of the learning experiences that pique their interest — giving them a brighter future, a clearer path to adulthood and maybe even light the paths of a budding scientist, an aspiring writer, an innovative mathematician or an environmental advocate.
The roads are endless, but they all could start here.
Follow Giselle’s inspiring story from the beginning: