We just got back from the Liberated Learners conference in Hadley, Massachusetts, and I wanted to take a moment to write to tell you all about the experience. Starting a non-profit organization is a big undertaking, and it was good to have a chance to take stock of our accomplishments. A year ago we started with two people and an idea, and here we are a year later with 18 students, a board, an extended staff of volunteers, a space, a viable budget, 501.c.3 approval from the IRS, and a thriving community of families committed to making BSLC succeed. No other Liberated Learners self-directed learning center has come so far so fast.
I'm happy to report that everyone at the conference was pretty impressed with us -- so impressed that I was asked to talk about our successful first year at the keynote panel last Friday night. The main thing I tried to communicate was the importance of community building. The staff on their own couldn't have had the kind of year we did without all kinds of help: we couldn't have run an outreach campaign, built a website, had a marketing campaign, or held a Spring Session without the over $12,000 in seed money graciously provided by our donors. Without volunteers and engaged parents, we couldn't have coordinated all the planning, activities, and infrastructure needs that have made such a difference this year. Without the assistance of Reverend Rali Weaver and the Board of Deacons at The First Unitarian Church in Dedham, we'd have had a much harder time finding an affordable space so well suited to our needs. Without the generosity, experience, and knowledge of our board, I'd have been at sea with a variety of complex administrative and planning tasks, and without the constant support of the Liberated Learner's network, we would have never had the kind of experience and advice we needed to avoid costly mistakes in implementing the program. The list goes on, but my point is that you all deserve most of the credit for our amazing first year.
However, in the coming year we will grow even more and have to accomplish even more if BSLC is to live up to the potential we've already shown. Below is a short list of the projects we will be pursuing in the coming year.
- Now that we are an official non-profit organization, we have many more fundraising tools available to us. We are also able to apply for a number of grants that could, among other things, help us to get a van to support our outdoor program.
- Soon we'll be moving into our space, and the Unitarians have been kind enough to allow us to start a few improvement projects during the Summer (please see sidebar).We are looking for all kinds of items to help us as we get started.We'll soon be sending out an email with a list of specific needs from furniture to computers.
- In August, we'll be putting together the interior of our space, painting a couple of our rooms, and generally moving in. (See sidebar.)
- Outreach, outreach, outreach: The conference gave us lots of ideas on how to extend our outreach program. This is critical to our success. If our fundraising and outreach succeed, we can offer a good self-directed learning alternative to more of the students who need it most. We'll be planning a full schedule of community events, Information Sessions, and open houses again this year.
- We learned a lot about databases, marketing, and data tracking last weekend, and we are excited to apply what we learned. A lot of this is new to us, so if any of you in our extended community can help us establish a solid database system, it will be a huge asset to BSLC's ongoing development.
- We also attended a fund raising seminar at the conference. We will be having our crowd-funding campaign with IncitED.org again this November, but this year we are working on getting some matching funds from a couple of generous donors who support what we are doing, as well as gifts to send to our donors. The more funds we raise, the more diverse our program can be, and that is a core commitment of BSLC's staff and board.
Thank you all!
Upcoming Events and Volunteer Opportunities:
Beautify Our Garden! BSLC Work Party
July 24th 9:00 AM
670 High St.
We need to create a welcoming and attractive impression for our members and visitors. Some community members have already offered some plants and mulch, but we could use some large outdoor planters, more plants and possibly a trellis or pergola of some kind. We also need help with light landscaping, pulling weeds and general yard work. Please come out and help us beautify our courtyard and make BSLC look good! Wear your work clothes, and bring glove if you have them. We'll provide pizza for lunch.
BSLC Meetup at the Mendon Drive-In
7:00 PM Date: TBA (Some time in the last two weeks of August)
Mendon Drive-In is one of the last great drive-in theaters around. We're reserving a block of 6 spaces for a BSLC movie night. Mendon drive-in is an institution in the Metro West area. They have a fantastic snack bar and it's always a good time. Please let us know if you are interested in this event so we'll know if we need to reserve more spaces.
Cost: $25.00 per vehicle.
Move In, Paint, and Beautify Our Space!
9:00 AM Thursday, August 21st
We'll need 5-6 volunteers to help us get moved into our space and paint a couple of our rooms. We're going to be making ourselves at home, and we want to create the best environment possible. We're looking for some sturdy but comfortable institutional furniture and creative decorating ideas. Email George for more information.
First Day of Fall Session:
September 2, 2014
At the rear doors of 670 High St.
(The 33 Bullard St. entrance)
Bay State Learning Center!