Friday, August 27, 2021 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
A new nonprofit tutoring center is poised to open for young people in the Proviso Township area.
During a regular meeting on Aug. 23, the Hillside Board of Trustees voted unanimously in favor of a series of zoning measures necessary for Byron and Keisha Wicks to open NextGen Resource Center inside of space at 10 N. Elm St. in Hillside.
The new center may be poised to open in the coming weeks and months, but Keisha Wicks said she and a small team of educators have been providing tutoring services for roughly a dozen young people since January.
She said the need arose while children were learning remotely due to the pandemic restrictions. She added that while there were many food giveaways happening; the food drives, while necessary, didn’t address another lack — that of quality educational instruction among children in Proviso suburbs.
Byron and Keisha Wicks conducting an online service for their Next Generation Church Proviso. | Courtesy Next Generation Church Proviso/Facebook
“We just knew that it was part of our mission to love, empower and equip all generations and education is a way that we do that,” Keisha said on Aug. 23.
“We felt like there was a need for empowerment,” she explained. “There was a ton of charity, but I feel like if there’s a ton of charity and no empowerment, then you’re empowering people to be entitled. I believe we really need to train up the next generation.”
The Wicks — who live in Hillside and co-pastor a Next Generation Church-Proviso, which worships each week at the old Lexington School, 415 Lexington St. in Maywood — said they noticed educational needs in their own children.
“Our children’s school didn’t even do MAP [Measure of Academic Progress] testing last year because of the pandemic, so we don’t even know what their aptitude was,” Keisha said.
“Many of the kids in the community did not even show up for online learning and so they’re behind in reading and behind in math,” Wicks said. “And not all families have $200 per program to go to Sylvan and Huntington. We’re the church but we also know we have a commitment to meet the needs.”
The Wicks aren’t strangers to meeting people’s needs where they are. Before starting their church three years ago, the Wicks were well-known for leading Parkside Sunday school, an outreach ministry that provided Christian instruction for young people in local parks.
The Wicks plan to open NextGen Resource Center in Hillside in a space inside of 10 N. Elm in Hillside. The location is right across the street from Hillside School, 4804 Harrison St. in Hillside. | File
Keisha said she pays a small team of teachers stipends to conduct tutoring sessions in mainly math and reading, although they often incorporate other subjects, such as music. The sessions are divided into 5-month semesters, with participants paying $100 a month. The programming runs Monday through Friday, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
When it started, the tutoring program, which caters to young people from kindergarten to sixth grade, was conducted online by way of Zoom. The next session may start again in September, the Wicks said.
Once they start instruction inside of the new space at 10 N. Elm, in-person enrollment will be capped at 15 students, but there will be virtual options with more capacity, Byron said.
“As the program grows, we plan to extend services to junior high and high school students,” he added.
The Wicks said they hope to have a soft launch of their new tutoring center space in late September.