The new year holds different meaning to different people. To Alichia R. Parker and Denise Barron it means positioning young people to become successful. It means offering quality education to children.

Excited and looking forward to what is ahead for their new venture, Malaika Learning Center, they offer a guarantee that children will become proficient in literacy, numeracy and social skills.

BIG AND SMALL—Parker shares a moment with Malaika Learning Center potential students.

Malaika Learning Center provides educational programming for children in preschool to twelfth grade as well as direct training programming to adults through its early learning academy, youth programming and training and development center.

The mission of the Center located at 3556 Shadeland Ave. on the North Side is to inspire and promote education throughout the world. The pair says they believe in the tri-model support system of school, family and community. “We strive to support all our children and push them to achieve greatness by defining children’s interests, supporting family values, and developing a positive sense of self,” they indicate.

Open since November, Parker says they are currently enrolling for the Early Learning Academy and Youth Programming subdivisions. Designed for students ages two to five, the Early Learning Academy offers what the pair calls a stimulating nurturing environment that supports a student’s ability to enter kindergarten; and become proficient in the areas of social/emotional, language, physical and mathematical skills. They point out that the curriculum is aligned with the Pennsylvania Learning Standards for Early Childhood.

Geared to assist students in grades K through 12, the Youth Programming division helps students excel in and out of school. It offers an out of school program that provides a tri-modal support system of school, family and community. Students participate in activities that include homework assistance, foreign language, fun, fitness, and establishing goals and dreams.

With the hope that students stay with them throughout the duration of their academic years, Parker said they strive to prepare them for college and to provide them with scholarships. “One of our prerequisites is to conform to the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship initiative and its requirements,” Parker said.

True advocates for youth and staunch educators, combined Parker and Barron possess over 40 years of experience in the education field. Since 2007 Parker has operated A Par Educational LLC, a learning oriented company that carries the philosophy that children work at their own pace, and comprehend differently. She maintains the importance of promoting a positive healthy learning environment and focusses her company structure on helping children learn utilizing various learning styles suited for their individual needs. A Par functions and supports the principles of differential instruction. “People learn if they are stimulated. Some children are visual, auditory and or kinesthetic tactile learners,” she explained.

A graduate of Langley High School, she is pursuing her master’s degree in Education from the University of Pittsburgh in Instruction and Learning.

Barron, a Human Services graduate of Geneva College, considers herself a forward thinking leader with the mission to provide a safe and happy environment that will stimulate the physical, intellectual, multicultural, social, and emotional growth of children at their own pace. Employed by numerous child care facilities throughout her career and experience gained as a permanent sub for the Pittsburgh Public School District, Barron says has given her the ability to understand the dynamics of children as it relates to their behavior, brain development, communication, and early language skills.

She serves as the director of facility at the Center where her responsibilities include assessing the employees, conducting the day-to- day activities and assuring the facility runs smoothly.

Aside from providing strategic tutorial programs through A Par, Parkers’ responsibilities consist of overseeing the operations of the Center and making sure that all components of the Center function.

Because of Parkers Pennsylvania Quality Assurance Systems certification through the Pennsylvania State Department, she and Barron also operate the Training and Development Center, the organization’s third division. Barron explained that it provides direct training services that include best practices that will enhance programs and or organizations through every functional stage of development.

Thrilled about the potential of the training and development side of the center, they look forward to the professional development opportunities that will prepare attendees to work with students of all ages. Launching their first venture in January, Parker said she and Barron are working with the Sister 2 Sister Group from the North Side operated by Brenda Lowery and Staci Webb. An eight week pilot program, the initiative consists of 15, 12 to 18 year old girls. Finalizing the curriculum, Parker said the focus of the program is to show the participants a positive side of life. Workshops will focus on building self-esteem, communication skills, team building and etiquette.

“The goal is to deal with the whole person,” described Parker, emphasizing that they all have unique talents. “We will focus on their POWER; meaning perseverance, oneness, wellness, excitement and respect.”

Enthusiastic about the response they have received from the community and their supporters, Barron said they are grateful and visualize a positive future. Naming the Center Malaika which in the Swahili language means angel and using Parker as their mascot which depicts education and a can do it attitude, she says in 2012 she sees them going “up, up and up.”

“Our motto that we instill in our students is: Greatness is reachable, obtainable and visible. Greatness is you, is what we believe,” explained Parker and that is how we view our students and all that we do now and in the future.”

(Malaika Learning Center, 412-415-3559. )

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