A new learning center in Mesa aims to provide working parents’ children a safe and nurturing place after school.
Gigi’s World, for children 5 to 12, features high-end computers, a cheery decor, educational games, a digital library and devoted mentors who help facilitate a positive experience. It is located near Southern Avenue and Val Vista Drive on the second floor of the Regus office building.
Owner Geaza “Gigi” Buentipo expanded the learning center in response to what she said is a rising demand by parents who need after-school care for their children.
Buentipo started her entrepreneurial endeavors in 2018 with a private, kids-only taxi service that gets them to appointments, from one parent to another and to after-school activities.
Pre-pandemic, Buentipo and her team of vetted driving staff accommodated over 500 households across the Valley, but soon she saw other opportunities.
As a former foster youth, Buentipo wanted to further help parents who could not be home by the time their children were done with school.
She said her clients might be those with long or odd work schedules, such as medical professionals and police officers.
She also serves many teachers who try to balance the needs of their students with those of their own children.
“I asked myself, ‘What do these families need?’” Buentipo explained. And so she developed the Gigi’s World.
She now picks children up from school and takes them to her learning center, allowing parents to either pick up their child their or offering to drive them home.
But Gigi’s World is not a daycare facility, Buentipo emphasized and is far from a place where children run around wild, making noise and “wasting time,” she said.
School-aged children can finish homework, meet with a tutor if necessary or simply decompress with trained staff, she said.
The learning center has space for 10 students, who are monitored at all times by two adults and can be monitored by their parents through a secure video camera.
Gigi’s World offers a combination package that includes transportation to the learning center and regularly scheduled tutoring.
Outside of the monthly plan, tutoring can be arranged for around $50 an hour and taxi rides are competitively priced at $1.50/mile (plus a base fee and fuel surcharge).
Buentipo’s fleet is equipped with tracking deices and parents can track the driver’s movements and receive text alerts about their arrival at a destination.
Drivers wait to make sure children go into their planned destination.
Monthly users can also have the same driver assigned to their child so parents can build trust with them..
Tasha Phillips, who has been employed with Gigi’s World for a year, said the hiring and background process is rigorous.
No one is hired if they have no prior experience working with children, she explained.
Parents of students attending qualifying schools can utilize their Empowerment Scholarship Account to book taxi rides between school and home.
Buentipo cautions, however, that her staff and current fleet can only support children with limited special needs.
“We are not trained to address greater medical or behavioral needs, nor are we equipped with vehicles that can accommodate special equipment,” she said.
She added that for the VIP experience, drivers are using newer and flashier car models such as Jaguars and BMWs.
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