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Learning center opens in Fresh Meadows

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"Our plan is to operate a successful academic enrichment after-school program in Queens and then take the knowledge and experience that we have gathered here and offer our educational services to other communities in New York City," executive director Dr. Dan Miller said of the Learning Zone, which recently started accepting students.

The Learning Zone, at 182-10 Union Turnpike, has empty chairs waiting to be filled at its Fresh Meadows location, where remediation and enrichment are offered to children from first through eighth grade.

A seasoned educator, Miller has been invited to meetings of the Friends of Cunningham Park to describe the program and has become a member of the civic. He also has met with Parent Teacher Associations at local schools as well as distributed 250 scholarships to elected officials from Queens. And he was scheduled to give away more scholarships on a Thursday radio show, he said in a phone interview.

The Learning Zone builds on the foundation of knowledge that a child has gained through regular education, Miller said. There are 20 computer workstations for children at the Learning Zone, supplemented by 10 college coaches, dean's list students from St. John's University, working with the children on reading and math skills. Students enrolled in the program attend eight one-hour sessions a month.

Opened in November, the Learning Zone started accepting students just a few weeks ago. The time in between was used to ensure everything was in place and to test the prototype software Odyssey, which now is used throughout the United States to support remediation and enrichment in a computer lab setting, Miller said. Students are tested using the Compass Learning Inc. software, which complies with New York state education standards.

"We have chosen a state-of-the-art software system that helps us to assess every child's level of achievement and helps us place each student on a learning path within that child's learning comfort zone," Miller said.

With 15 students from Howard Beach to Great Neck and Brooklyn to Long Island, the center offers its services to children at all levels of learning, from struggling to gifted, and there already are plans for locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan in 2005.

New students get the ball rolling with an assessment test in math and reading, which determines each individual child's learning path. The intention of the learning path is to present the student with additional activities and quizzes that will reinforce what they already know. The center also offers assistance with social studies and science, if requested.

"They're boosted up to the next level," Miller said.

The Learning Zone has empty computer stations that Miller said he plans to fill with students.

"In order to market this site we need to bring people in here, giving them an opportunity to try out the program," Miller said. The Learning Zone has started a scholarship program to introduce students to the facility.

Miller is offering 250 one-month scholarships through the local Parent Teacher Associations and elected officials, such as City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), who was given 50 to distribute to the community, and Assemblyman Mark Weprin, who recently visited the center and participated in his own assessment.

Miller was also planning to distribute scholarships Thursday, when he was to be a guest speaker on Real Talk with Jim Lisa on 93.5 FM radio.

The Learning Zone charges $112 per month for annual members who pay at once and $130 per month for annual members who pay by the month. Miller said, however, that members can reduce their tuition by $10 per referral to the center, with a limit of 10 referrals.

The Learning Zone is open from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

Miller is a 36-year veteran of the New York City Public School system. During his tenure he served as a teacher, math coordinator, staff developer, assistant principal and principal.

After retiring from the public school system, he served as the director of graduate programs at Touro College, where he was credited with taking a small program of 18 and helping it grow to 850 in fewer than two years. For 10 years Miller was the vice president of the Association of Assistant Principals of New York City.

Outside the classroom he has served as the community mayor for Sunset Park in Brooklyn. The community mayors make up a service organization that provides recreational therapy for physically and mentally challenged children.

Miller received countrywide recognition as the architect of the Reading Rainbow program, a national reading initiative to get kids reading. For his part, Miller was invited to the White House to meet then first lady Barbara Bush.

Now Miller is focused on marketing the upstart Learning Zone to the Queens community.

"We're making excellent progress."

Reach reporter Tommy Hallissey by e-mail at news@timesledger.com.

Posted 7:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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