Learning labs aim to support public schools

Jymil Thompson

CAMBRIDGE — A public-private cooperative effort is underway to support students in Dorchester County schools. The John & Janice Wyatt Foundation is backing Learning Labs at three locations — so far — with plans for a couple more.

“The concept is to provide a place where they can do work,” foundation Community Outreach Manager Jymil Thompson said earlier this month. Mr. Thompson, the former principal at Mace’s Lane Middle School, represents the organization locally, as the program gets up and running.
“We’re trying to find ways to increase the scale,” he said. “We’ve been doing this for a couple of months.”
Facilities are being used at New Beginnings, Harvesting Hope and the Empowerment Center, all in Cambridge. Plans call for at least one more site in the city and another in North Dorchester.
The locations are set up with computers, staff members to provide guidance and lunches. The goal is not to replace public education, but to support the schools’ programs.

“The Dorchester County Learning Labs program is a joint collaborative with several non-profits in our community, seeking to meet the needs of families who are looking for a productive, safe place for their students when they are not in school,” a statement from the schools said. “These non-profits include churches, foundations, and youth organizations who realize the current pandemic is producing increased isolation for students when they are not in school and the need for tutoring and structured time to complete schoolwork and socialize with their peers.”

“The Dorchester County Learning Labs program is not sponsored or endorsed by Dorchester County Public Schools. However, DCPS recognizes this emerging need in our community,” the statement said.
Sites will follow strict COVID-19 safety regulations.
The John & Janice Wyatt Foundation is a 501c(3) non-profit, grant-making family foundation established in July 2018. “We are intensely focused on creating equity and leveling the playing field for socially and economically disadvantaged children and youth in our geographic service area. Our focus is on early childhood education through high school – the cradle to career pathway – and our goal is to help these children stay engaged and become successful, active citizens in today’s rapidly evolving world,” a statement on the group’s website says.

Sites currently operating are:
New Beginnings — 522 Greenwood Ave., Monday-Friday, Session 1: 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; Session 2: 1-3:30 p.m. Contact 410-228-1950 or 443-421-0030
Harvesting Hope — 447 Race St., Monday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Contact 443-351-4846
Empowerment Center — 615B Pine St., Tuesday-Friday, Session 1: 8 a.m.-12 p.m.; Session 2: 12-4 p.m.