Fayetteville birthday venue turns learning center to assist students amid pandemic

In a time where parents and students are trying to navigate online learning, a local businesswoman and substitute teacher are providing an option for kids.

Radiah Johnson is no stranger to teaching. Before COVID-19, she was an English substitute teacher at some Cumberland County Schools; however, since the pandemic struck, she's been jobless.

That all changed when friend and property owner, Shanicha McNeil, offered up her birthday party venue, at 2007 Ramsey Street, as a new learning center.

"Now, I kind of do what I do best with kids. I'm a motivator, I'm the inspiration, I'm the 'get your butt up and get your work done,' that's me, haha," Johnson said.

In its second week, the new learning pod business has gathered up four Cumberland County students who are utilizing the resource.

"For them to sit there for four or five hours, it's hard for them to stay focused. So, I can imagine them losing focus more at home then a place like this, because then they have people around them that are doing the exact same things," Johnson said.

Johnson and McNeil's son, a math expert, spend the school week helping and keeping students accountable from 8 a.m. to noon. They enforce CDC guidelines by separating study tables by six feet, require masks inside, and vary the lunch schedule for each child.

Johnson tells Eyewitness News they also incorporate plenty of outdoor activities, all for the cost of 50 dollars a week. "The kids really have nowhere to go, parents still have to work, so a lot of them are at home, and we figured it would be a good opportunity for them to have a space for them to come and do their learning."

If parents can't afford the 50 dollar price tag, Johnson says they're also providing an option where parents can sell 50 dollar gift baskets to cover the weekly cost. "We thought that was a good idea to help some parents out."

McNeil and Johnson are also planning to expand their learning pod with more outdoor activities and an after-school program that would offer tutoring sessions for struggling students.

If you would like to enroll your child into this learning pod, you can contact Shanicha McNeil at (910) 322-4506.
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