Editor’s note: Since last 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.
It seems the education system struggles to provide students in public schools STEM and STEAM [STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering and Math; the A is for Art] education. While public schools deal with higher teacher-to-student ratios and a constant budget crisis, The Learning Hub has found a willing partner in local public libraries, which are helping to fill the void of missing after-school programs and in-school study options in many inner cities.
Public libraries have always been valued as an important element in any community. Creating a space filled with unlimited knowledge and resources, these local libraries are shifting what they offer the residents of their communities. Attractions in any city, libraries have the ability to revitalize a community by bringing different groups together, addressing social issues and introducing things like historical artifacts to an audience that may never reach a museum. They also make business and entrepreneurial resources more accessible.
The library is one of the most versatile tools that can be used to enrich any area, especially inner cities.
Catch up with Giselle’s most recent chapter, The kernels of wisdom, or scroll down to start from earlier in her inspiring journey
When creating programs to enrich educational experiences, local libraries are a step above the rest. They have always been key players in cultivating livable and environmentally friendly cities and towns through their impressive interaction with other local organizations. Libraries will not stand in the way of progress. Instead, they will create innovative and impactful programs.
The Peabody Institute Library on the North Shore, for example, partnered with local businesses to pioneer a farmers market in its courtyard, much like nearby Auburn has in the past. In Charlotte, North Carolina, programs like ImaginOn are providing exciting models that take on community partnerships, creativity and creation through art and writing workshops and music practice rooms. The New York Public Library in Queens partnered with Google to offer 100 free coding classes for youths.
Some may see libraries as something from the past in our rapidly evolving, digitalized age, but local libraries are a staple of progress.
With several creative, out-of-the-box programs implemented at local libraries, the biggest market that is missing is that of a consistent after-school, year-round supplemental education program. That is where The Learning Hub steps in.
We are making our curriculum available to libraries throughout the state and are beginning to reach out to the American Library Association to offer our services for the local community and start a trend of increased free (for students) educational programs in inner cities. If we are unable to work with the local public schools because of funding, red tape and politics, then we will meet with every single library in the state to launch our effective program nationally within three years.
We are a fiscally sponsored program of the Social Good Fund, giving us nonprofit status and a more financially advantageous platform to launch our initiatives. While we want to keep our program and curriculums free to the community through the local libraries, we are seeking grant funding from different avenues to help with the liftoff.
Our curriculum is an interactive STEAM program that could be purchased semi-annually or annually through local libraries, and would include training, a list of working partners and affiliates in each community, and a lasting positive impression on the youth of any city or town. Purchase price could range between $300 and $400 per month for libraries.
While we are finalizing our curriculum and package details, we have embarked on a partnership with a new library to take on our program this fall.
The Wayland Free Public Library has booked The Learning Hub program until the end of December and reached out to us due to what we heard was a lack of STEAM-based learning in the local public schools, and the schools’ impetus on the community to find alternative means of integrating such programs.
Most places like Sylvan Learning and Kumon specialize in high-priced tutoring options and newly introduced STEM classes. These classes can range from $75 to $125 per month per child. A number that in some communities could “break the bank” if, say, two or more children in a family need help, clearly ignoring the needs of lower-income students.
On our mission to make this program affordable for all partners, libraries and families, we are applying for local grants, reaching out to businesses and expanding our reach to out of state libraries, in an effort to create a trend that is much needed.
The Worcester Public Library on Main Street extended our contract to the end of December and will be revisiting the program curriculum in the spring to boost attendance. On average, The Learning Hub maker classes at the Worcester Public Library holds an attendance of 15 students – with our highest class reaching 19. Our class attendance is growing and so is the need to address the future of our youth. As we continue to work out the numbers this week, we look forward to launch our maker classes in Wayland and tentatively in Auburn.
Follow Giselle’s inspiring story from the beginning: