Doing homework was always a chore for Aldith Flanaghan’s son Andre, now a senior at Conard High School. He was distracted by video games and challenged by poor study habits which kept his mom awake at night worried about how she could help. The costs for private tutoring were prohibitive. As a working single parent, Flanaghan couldn’t be home to monitor or assist her son.
After talking to school officials and other parents, Flanaghan had a brainstorm: why not open an after-school center to help students with homework? It would be not only a tutoring center, but also a place where learning could be made fun.
Out of this dream came the LOL Club (“Learning Or Leisure”), which held its grand opening last month in the spacious former Noah Webster Memorial Library building at 7 North Main Street in West Hartford.
This innovative new community center provides a safe and secure environment for middle school and high school students to do homework or work on projects. But the LOL Cub also has a brightly colored, fun lounge space in its basement, with free Wi-Fi and an Apple TV.
There’s also a pool table, ping pong, foosball and air hockey, along with video and board games.
On the first floor, brand new big-screen Apple computers make up the computer lab. Spiffy tables and chairs are interspersed throughout the main area. The third floor is the site of a library, complete with comfy couches for reading.
“We want to give students everything that appeals to them, all in one place,” said Flanaghan. “We want them to be motivated to do their work, but to make it fun as well.”
Thus far, six classrooms have been set up for the core subjects of English, math, science, history, Spanish, and French. Certified local teachers and an assistant have been hired for each class, with sessions starting in January.
Weekends at the LOL Club will be for workshops. Beginning in January, there workshops are scheduled for SAT prep, yoga, hip-hop dance, bead fashion jewelry design and more.
Flanaghan has also announced a series of fun workshops to be held during the winter semester break. These include a fashion show, arts and crafts, scrapbooking, spa glam day, jewelry- making, and dance. She hopes and expects her students will create the first LOL Club magazine, including photos and stories about club activities.
Next month, the LOL Club will offer an eight-week program on leadership and public speaking, led by Toastmasters representatives.
In addition, plans are under way for students who sign up for the LOL Club to be placed locally as interns or volunteers.
The new owner and director said she hopes her affordable and flexible rates will make the LOL Club a “cost-effective alternative for students to get help after school.” The LOL Club is priced at $100/week. Extended hours are offered so parents working late can be reassured their children are in a supervised environment. Workshops cost $25/per day, with no limit on the number of workshops attended. Program tuition assistance is available.
Jamaican native and Trinity grad
A native of Jamaica and one of 13 children, Flanaghan has a varied background. After joining her sister in the Hartford area at the age of 19, she worked as a rental agent for Prudential Realty and as a beauty consultant at Nordstrom. She then attended Trinity College, where she interned at the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women and the Commission on Human Rights and graduated with a degree in human rights studies.
She thought she might become a lobbyist for women and children’s rights, but she was offered a job working for Prudential Financial as a product manager.
Fast forward five years to today. With the help of her husband of five months – Glen Flanaghan, a financial advisor at ING – the entrepreneur has realized her dream. The couple has invested their financial resources into the for-profit LOL Club.
Upbeat and with a cheerful demeanor, Flanaghan said, “I see the world in the way it can be as opposed to the reality. We all have a moral sense of obligation to help in our own small ways.
“Doing homework can be fun; it shouldn’t be a chore,” Flanaghan concluded. “We hope to bridge the gap between school and home and give middle and high schoolers a space that is theirs. Here, we have an opportunity to make learning fun.”
The LOL Club is offering a complimentary one-day pass for prospective students. Hours at the LOL Club, 7 North Main Street, in West Hartford are: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, 2-8 p.m.; Wednesday, 1-8 p.m.; Friday, 2-9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sunday, noon-4 p.m. For more information or to register, call Aldith Flanaghan (860) 521-2582; email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit, www.lolclubofwesthartford.com.