READY TO CONTINUE TO EDUCATE—Alichia Parker, owner of Malaika Learning Center, is one of the three $10,000 grant recipients of the first Northside Inclusive Innovation Business Grant Competition. (Photo by Diane I. Daniels)

Nine years ago, Alichia Parker proclaimed that she would one day own and operate an educational center. In 2007, she established A PAR Educational, LLC with the mission to inspire and promote learning throughout the world, the belief being that the organization could make a positive difference and impact children’s lives by providing quality services and resources. Four years later, she opened Malaika Learning Center, where she has serviced over 100 youth.

Recently, her dream became closer to reality as she and six other local businesses were winners of the first Northside Inclusive Innovation Business Grant Competition administered by the Riverside Center for Innovation and Urban Innovation21. Parker, one of three recipients of a $10,000 grant, plans to utilize the funds to expand programming to provide adult training services focused on job readiness, computer literacy and communication skills.

“I am so excited,” said Parker, remembering her prediction made during a 2008 New Pittsburgh Courier interview while fulfilling an internship requirement and pursuing her Master’s degree in Education from the University of Pittsburgh at age 25.

“Innovation means many things,” said William Generett, president and CEO of Innovation21, mentioning that he was blown away by the winners of the competition with their amazing ideas. Roxanne Easley Wallace, owner of Roxanne’s Catering LLC and Verna Arnold, owner of Arnold’s Tea, were the other two $10,000 recipients.

The three winners were in the existing business category. Easley Wallace, operating since 2006, has plans to utilize her award funds to move her catering operations to the North Side and to secure a vehicle for deliveries.

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