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 but has transformed considerably since. During her journey she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.
Nelson Mandela, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and global human rights icon who died in 2013, famously claimed that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
With our Maker Monday classes at Worcester Public Library the last few weeks, I could see this happening firsthand.
Not only have we engaged our students and participants with stimulating lesson plans and interactive maker classes, but we are forming relationships and bonds with children who do not always have steady influences from positive role models.
We want our students to grow and have a well-balanced life, and while our core mission is to educate and open the doors of opportunity, we are also on a mission to create a space for peer interaction.
Education is a powerful tool, for sure, but so is the act of compassion.
Catch up with Giselle’s most recent chapter, The full head of steam, or scroll down to start from earlier in her journey from concerned mother to fledgling entrepreneur
As we grow from childhood to adulthood, there are a few key elements that determine our futures and the paths we take. From education to positive influences, the developing minds of children and young adults are like a sponge, soaking up the life and lessons of its surroundings. As educators, adults, parents and friends, our job is to ensure that our youth are surrounded by an abundance of positivity, giving them more than just hope.
Improving the lives of children should be the collective mission of any community.
With age comes wisdom and experience — and a responsibility to share those things in a positive way. Handing children the tools of success is not enough. We must show them the way and encourage them, nurture their interests by allowing them to explore at early ages. We can not dismiss their interests, passions or ideas based on past failures. The only way to lift our community is to give youth — many of whom are considered “at-risk” and who struggle to flourish in school — a stable platform to showcase their talents and brilliance.
The Learning Hub is dear to my heart, of course. It is an organization focused on education and one that is quickly evolving. Tutoring is still a big part of what we want to do — including low-cost, $15-per-hour options for low-income families. But, encouraged by the success of Maker Mondays, our focus on free STEAM [STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, classes, with Art incorporated] classes at community libraries will continue to sharpen.
[Editor’s note: Worcester Public Library paid for some supplies — Giselle picked up the rest — and provided a test site for the Hub’s first four STEAM classes. Going forward WPL has agreed to pay $50 per class and plan two Maker Mondays per month. Giselle and her advisors are developing a pricing plan for future agreements with libraries and other entities.]
We’re excited to be creating a space fully allowing our students to feel comfortable to discuss their inner passions and ask questions about how we can help them. Students have stayed after our classes to talk in more detail about Van Gogh, planting vegetables, healthy food choices, upcoming classes and even to discuss new lesson ideas, like pitching us as if we were a panel on “Shark Tank.”
Last Monday — our final class before the start of the school year — we invited the Regional Environmental Council of Worcester to open the discussion about food choices, organic foods and planting.
Our students planted seeds of bush beans and sugar snap peas into their own gardens, taking pride in the new responsibility. At the end of class, REC Worcester donated more than 40 ears of corn to our students in hopes of shifting their attention to the importance of our local economy, supporting local farmers and creating an excitement for food sustainability.
The class was an immense success. Our students inquired about where they can purchase organic foods and discussed their favorite foods, all while learning about positive local organizations like REC.
Two of our oldest students signed up as volunteers for both REC and The Learning Hub. I am constantly amazed by our students; not only by their brilliance and curiousity, but also by their maturity in seeing that there is a world outside of their neighborhoods.
There is no greater time to devote yourself to inspiring our youth than now. Showing them the small steps of persistent hard work illuminates their world — shining hope brightly into the darkened corners of their lives.
The notion of “where there’s a will, there’s a way” is one that we must ingrain in the developing minds of our students. Some feel as though the science, arts and math fields are out of reach — something that is only available to those in a different social class — but we have to break through that mindset and instill in all children that their lifestyle should be used as a motivator and constant reminder of what their life goals are.
Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, but if we do not teach our youth how to maximize their usage, they will be unable to break the chains of poverty and poor education while missing the chance to grasp onto their highly attainable goals.
Follow Giselle’s inspiring story from the beginning: