On a late and rainy Thursday afternoon, future leaders are hard at work in the Epic Enrichment Center at 617 Middle Neck Road in Great Neck.
Some students are studying quietly and taking notes, with no smartphones in sight. A group of others are meanwhile packed into a nearby room, raising hands and tackling a fundamental question: what are core values and what do they mean?
“They try to cut out the electronics that aren’t being used for school you can can focus in that environment as long as you want to focus,” said Antonio Kawai, a sixth grader at North Middle School whose mom Julienne teaches communications and leadership. “It’s a really nice place, the classes are pretty great.”
Asked about the environment of the center, Kawai described it as “relaxing, yet energetic.”
Pricilla Leung, one of the center’s founders, said the goal of Epic Enrichment Center goes beyond just “academic prep.” It’s also about cultivating tomorrow’s “everyday leaders,” boosting social skills, and fostering a “growth mindset” in a nurturing environment, she said.
“We’re demanding the whole package,” Leung, a member of E.M. Baker, North Middle School and North High School’s respective parent-teacher committees, said on Thursday.
According to the website, the center offers classes in writing, public speaking and leadership skills available to older elementary school students and up. This is in addition to homework help and college preparation.
Julienne Kawai said that in her own classes so far, the students have learned about active listening, morals, and both verbal and non-verbal communication.
This has been done through games, activities, cooperation and asking questions, she said, and is working to bolster self-confidence.
“I love this course,” Kawai said before offering holiday treats to the students. “It’s so much fun to teach.”
Michael Chen, a freshman at Great Neck South High School, said every day has been “fun” and “unique.” In general, it has helped him study and keep his grades up, he said.
“Sometimes if one person needs help, [Leung] goes to that person and then the next person – it’s like a private tutor within a group,” Chen said.
Stephanie Liu, a Great Neck resident with more than two decades of experience in managing prep schools in Queens and Flushing, said Epic Enrichment Center is “a little different” than what she does now.
What drew her to become involved, she said, was that some students – while relatively good with academics – “don’t represent themselves” and are “afraid to speak up.”
“I hope by having this we’ll help a lot of students to overcome that obstacle, that hurdle, to see that they could speak up a little more, to represent themselves,” Liu said.
Leung said she always had a passion for teaching, even when she worked in “various roles” within the corporate world.
Now her dream is coming true.
“Going to college, my passion was always to become an educator, but because my family needed money I went into the corporate world,” Leung said. “Now I’m going back to my passion, which is teaching and really inspiring kids, making a difference in their development.”