Owner and Executive Director, InspireWorks Enrichment Inc.; Age 32Remembering the learning opportunities he had as a kid, Jim Angelos worried that today’s students are missing out. So he decided to do something about it.
Armed with a degree in business and sports management from Elms College, Angelos launched InspireWorks Enrichment in 2007, partnering with local school districts and municipal park and recreation departments to offer after-school programs and summer camps.
“I had opportunities when I was younger, and I wanted to make sure kids today have something — especially with specialty subjects like music and art being cut out of school budgets,” he explained. “Unfortunately, right now, in a lot of school systems, teachers have to teach to a test, and they’re cutting out other programs. School systems see us as a way to enhance the curriculum.”
Starting with Agawam, then Longmeadow, with plans to expand into other communities, InspireWorks’ after-school offerings focus on a broad area of learning, such as science, engineering, or painting.
These curriculum-based enrichment programs, aimed at students from kindergarten through grade 8, aim to balance education and entertainment, Angelos noted. “The goal when designing classes was to disguise the learning; the kids just see it as a fun program.”
But it’s fun with a purpose, because the programs attract students with a predilection for a certain subject and enhance what they receive in school. “The after-school programs allow us to go in depth around certain subjects. For example, if they sign up for our science classes, they may already have an interest in that area, and we go into things like rocketry, physical and chemical reactions, dry-ice demonstrations, things along those lines.”
Meanwhile, the summer programs in Agawam and Chicopee (so far), like the after-school programs, strive to go beyond what kids might get at other camps, with activities ranging from swimming, archery, and sports to cooking, science, engineering, and fine arts.
“We’ve been fortunate to get a lot of positive feedback from our parents,” he told BusinessWest, adding that he’s also struck up a partnership with the Connecticut National Guard to offer programs for children of parents serving overseas.
With a full-time staff of about 30 people, InspireWorks served more than 2,500 students last year, and also maintains a camper leadership training program to help young adults develop leadership skills and job experience — starting the circle all over again.
It all comes back to what Angelos finds most gratifying about his company. “It gets kids excited about learning.”
— Joseph Bednar