Learning Hub City Center Allentown


City Center Investment Corp., the real estate development company revitalizing downtown Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Community Services for Children held a ribbon-cutting today for “Learning Hub City Center Allentown,” which is located on the ground floor of The Morning Call building at Sixth and Linden streets in Allentown. State Sen. Pat Browne, Director of the Office of Head Start Dr. Deborah Bergeron, City Center President J.B. Reilly, City Center V.P. of Sales & Marketing Jill Wheeler and Community Services for Children CEO/President Paula Margraf spoke at the ceremony.

Learning HubIn September 2018, City Center and Community Services for Children partnered with a shared vision for Learning Hub to provide school-day, after-school and summer programming for local children and parents in need, creating a vibrant learning community with strong family engagement in children’s education. A primary goal of Learning Hub is to ensure school readiness and success for disadvantaged children by leveraging the resources of Head Start and other partners. 

On October 1, 2018, at Learning Hub, Community Services for Children’s Head Start program began providing new learning opportunities for 110 preschool children and their parents from the surrounding neighborhood who are living in poverty. Going forward, Community Services for Children will engage and coordinate services with partners at Learning Hub for such offerings as GED and adult literacy classes, child literacy arts and science enrichment, various adult workshops, home buyers’ seminars, tax preparation, computer learning and programming on nutrition, among others.

City Center provided leadership and nearly $1.3 million in design and construction costs for the renovation of the 14,916-square-foot space, and along with Community Services for Children, convened partners for the initiative. Learning Hub is a playful learning environment designed for community interaction. Its six brightly colored classrooms are joined by a cozy library for quiet times, a Tech Innovation Lab with computers, a motion room, a gathering room and a social sphere for teachers and adults. 

“At City Center, our vision is to help create a vibrant, thriving community in downtown Allentown,” said Reilly. “We believe that for communities to thrive, students need access to a good education, and families need to be connected to that process. City Center is committed to sharing our resources for the strengthening of our community.”

“Our Head Start program has difficulty finding affordable and appropriate space for its classrooms even when we receive operational dollars for program expansion,” said Margraf. “City Center’s donation was especially critical because we had to move classrooms when a previous landlord sold his building and we received an opportunity to expand. Without City Center and J.B. Reilly stepping forward, we would have had to reduce Allentown enrollment. The need for Head Start is especially great with the poverty rate in the city and several hundred children on the waiting list for Head Start.”

In the City of Allentown, one out of three children are born into poverty, which is the single biggest predictor of potential school failure. However, with early education of the highest quality and the comprehensive intervention that Head Start provides, the future is brighter. National research demonstrates that children who experience Head Start are less likely to need remedial or special education, more likely to graduate from college and more likely to be healthy adults.

At Learning Hub, Community Services for Children will provide learning opportunities featuring three unique approaches: The Arts, STEM and Literacy Enhancement. Each approach is designed to strengthen children’s 21st Century skills, such as creativity, communication, collaboration and problem solving – real-world learning positioning children for lifelong success. Programming offered at Learning Hub will align with that of the Allentown School District, and Head Start will coordinate with the district’s neighborhood elementary schools to engage parents in district initiatives and ensure a seamless transition of children to kindergarten.

Learning Hub is a project of City Center’s Building Community initiative, which aims to revitalize downtown Allentown and its surrounding neighborhoods by providing financial support, in-kind donations and volunteer service, focusing on four key results-oriented areas: health, arts, community development and education. In 2017, City Center and its principals donated more than $3.2 million total to 120 organizations and its 25 employees volunteered at nearly 50 organizations, donating more than 1,500 total hours. In June 2018, City Center announced it pledged $1 million to match new and increased gifts to United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley during the 2018 campaign, and in August 2018, City Center became the three-year United Way Community School Corporate Partner for Central Elementary School in downtown Allentown.