Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials 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. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.
Almost a year ago, The Learning Hub was closing shop.
We had first attempted to bring a creative learning center to the children of Worcester; but most importantly, to the children living in the neighborhoods around Pleasant Street – one of the many forgotten areas in Worcester’s low-income portfolio – and we failed.
Overhead costs were unsustainable, demand for our services was low, and our location was limited in size and growth potential. Through our struggle to attract a broader local community and allow them to see what we offered, we learned the value of mobility and closed our doors at 253 Pleasant St.
Since July 2016, we embraced the concept of mobility and launched a library initiative to bring STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) learning to all of the state’s communities through the revitalization of programming for children in libraries across Massachusetts.
In the 13-plus months since, we have hosted more than 140 classes, at libraries in five cities and towns and have taught more than 2,000 students. Our mission to increase STEAM accessibility to young students has been a success – at least, to the standards of our definition of success.
But the mission is never over, and as we continue to expand to other libraries in Massachusetts, like the Sherborn Public Library and Needham Public Library, we’ve come to realize our expansion options are limited by the almighty dollar.
Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The business of growing up, or scroll down to explore more of her story.
While we strive to keep our programming free to students through our library initiatives, we need a source of increased revenue to allow our program to grow and eventually reign as the number one after-school program in the area. To accomplish that, we need to enhance our reachability.
As of July 12, The Learning Hub will partner with what is claimed to be America’s oldest art supply store, C.C. Lowell.
C.C. Lowell Art Supply Co. & Custom Framing made the move to 455 Pleasant St. from its Park Avenue location about a year ago. With the latest move came an abundance of work, new space and increased demand – all wonderful things to be overwhelmed with.
Although the space has given C.C. Lowell the opportunity to expand its Art Lab classes, the store lacked the time and staff to do so — until now.
Kristen Sciascia, owner of C.C. Lowell, shares my vision for a creative learning space, and we agreed The Learning Hub is the perfect fit to help fill the events calendar at C.C. Lowell. For the Hub, we can also expand our brand awareness and increase STEAM accessibility to more Worcester children.
The Learning Hub at C.C. Lowell will be different. We are booking a wide array of artists to expand our art classes and integrating a Maker Lab into the décor of the space to incorporate a real-science and design layout.
We believe in the power of community and collaboration, and with that in mind, we want The Learning Hub at C.C. Lowell to capture the educational needs of the community through the empowerment of entrepreneurs, makers and artists.
Art therapist Belinda Thomollari will be a resident artist in our new program, and will help children relieve stress through artistic and creative expression. Classes with Belinda will start on July 12, and run every Wednesday with a new theme and creative project.
We look forward to the opportunities that arise in the future through this partnership and we can’t wait to showcase our work to the community at our Back to School Community Day on Aug. 13 — at our new home, back on Pleasant Street, with our new C.C. Lowell partners.
Follow Giselle’s inspiring story from the beginning: