Cleveland boutique becomes virtual learning, child care center for students

Posted at 6:33 PM, Oct 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-08 18:53:16-04

CLEVELAND — Remote learning presents many challenges for kids and parents. One of them is finding childcare to monitor students while they log-in to their daily classes.

Understanding that need, the CEO of Our Favorite Things Boutique in Cleveland transformed the back of her store into a mini classroom, providing a safe place for these kids to learn, giving parents peace of mind, and offering a local mom a new job - all in one.

Tamika Johnson’s calling is children.

“Children have been my passion forever since I was a teenager. I used to babysit for free, do hair for free. I just, I love kids,” Johnson said.

That passion led her to a degree in early childhood education and jobs as a kindergarten and second-grade teacher before moving on to work in construction full-time. But that kind of work has been hard to come by in the last several months, due to schools being closed and not being able to find childcare while out on jobs.

“I’ve had to turn down jobs with the union because of the pandemic,” Johnson said.

That’s when Lisa McGuthry, the CEO of Our Favorite Things Boutique stepped in. Knowing Johnson had an education degree, she hired her to take on the day-to-day duties of the virtual learning center in the back of the shop.

“Making sure that they have their resources, make sure their computers are staying charged, make sure they're not on the phones playin, just staying focused,” Johnson said.

McGuthry started the center back in August.

“I knew that a lot of children didn't have a place to go to have virtual learning, I have an event center. And I just rose to the need of what the community needed,” McGuthry said.

She offered up space for free so kids can study online with supervision while their parents are at work. The center is like a miniature school. Kids receive a hot meal, snack, and breakfast if needed. They also have storytime and do arts and crafts.

“The goal is not to have children at home alone and trying to do virtual learning. It's already tough enough. They need the socialization, so this gives them a little socialization, but we're still socially distant,” McGuthry said.

Mary Wells brings her son, Kaleb, to the center two to three times a week.

“It gives the flexibility of me doing my job but also knowing that my son is safe. He's in a structured environment and he's getting his work done that's required,” Well said.

He learns alongside Johnson’s daughters, Kima and Zoey, who now get to come to work with their mom and see her passion in action.

“I have this opportunity to be home with my children, well not home, but still be in their presence, to still be able to have a paycheck, to still help out with the community,” Johnson said.

Up to six kids can study in the virtual learning center at one time. Walk-ins are welcome, so McGuthry encourages parents to call ahead at (216) 536-7928 if they need to reserve a space for their children.

Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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