Above: Parker and Barron celebrate the opening of Malaika Learning Center in Brighton Heights.

A new learning center is Brighton Heights is helping local students and educators throughout the Northside and the City of Pittsburgh.

The Malaika (pronounced muh-LAKE-aye) Center opened its doors in Brighton Heights last November as a learning center and after school program for students grades K-12.

The Malaika Learning Center includes an early learning academy for children 2 to 5 years old to help them enter kindergarten; youth programing that includes homework help, foreign language assistance and fitness activities; and teacher development center that offers direct training.

“We look forward to people coming from all over,” said Alichia Parker, co-founder of the Malaika Center and CEO of A PAR Educational, LLC.

For Parker, an experienced educator, the opening of Malaika Learning Center has been the realization of a long-time dream. She and co-founder Denise Barron hope the center will provide community members with a valuable educational resource, offering support for local adults as well as their children.

In addition to childcare services and youth programming, the center will offer computer access and opportunities for teacher training. The Malaika Center also offers scholarships to low-income students on a case-by-case basis.

“They care about people,” says Malik Vincent, media consultant for the Malaika Center. “They care about kids, and they work tirelessly. That’s what sets them apart: their hard work ethic.”

Vincent cites the arrival of Malaika’s new mascot, Parker, as an example of the center’s dedication to creating an exciting learning environment. Parker, a “fun-loving kid,” made his debut during the center’s grand opening last November.

“Alichia had a custom suit made,” Vincent recalls, “The mascot was walking around the whole night.”

According to Vincent, the Malaika Center strives to make learning an enjoyable pastime for its students.

Mathematic Attack, another of Alichia Parker’s creations, is a flash card game utilized by the center to help children learn basic multiplication and division skills—a technique that Vincent describes as “putting a fun slant on something that’s usually dreadful.”

Since its grand opening in November of 2011, says Alichia Parker, the Malaika Center has experienced “tremendous progress”. According to Parker, the center has received a great deal of support from parents in the area.

“People are always asking, ‘What do you need?’ We just got a big donation of toys,” said Parker

Parker also invites members to become better acquainted with the Malaika Center by signing up for a facility tour.

“We’re an open house here,” Parker adds, though she stresses the importance of student safety. The center “wants to be aware of who’s coming and going,” but interested community members are always welcome.

“We’re here to stay,” Parker concludes, “Here to be a resource for the community—and here for the children.”