We had the good fortune of connecting with Sofia Ivanka and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sofia, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
Building Smart Kids strives to use education to aid and support the most at-risk kids living and going to school in the most impoverished areas. We believe that education is the key to future success. Unfortunately, it gets put aside when financial struggles are in the way, access to quality education is diminished when schools are under-resourced. This perpetuates a cycle of illiteracy and poverty. Our goal is to intervene at the fundamental stage of a child’s educative journey with free tutoring that is accessible to everyone. Our programs primarily focuses on the 3rd and 4th grade levels, where students need to learn to read proficiently and understand the basics of mathematic concepts that will support all other concepts later on. Before the pandemic, we tutored in-person at the schools located in difficult areas. Now, we have continued to help by offering all of our programs online and live. The materials and games have been adapted to allow interaction on any device, even when students have no other option than to share a mobile phone. Building Smart Kids is always growing to spread more of our programming to other regions. We help kids around the world, in the U.S., Panama, and Honduras.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Building Smart Kids provides a Montessori based after-school program. This is the greatest aspect of our work that sets us apart. We create a friendly and warm learning environment in the classroom. Our tutor sets an equal power dynamic with the students to develop a friendship, we have noticed this decrease the likelihood of adverse behavior. The teaching materials we use combine play and intuitiveness in its design. They appeal to all of a child’s learning senses. We focus on results and not speed, if students are struggling on a topic, tutors have autonomy to repeat lessons instead of progressing in the program. The combination of these factors is unique among after-school programming, especially ones that are both free and on-site. A program that is new and offering what most do not can be shocking when introducing it to a principal, teacher, or district. But, it is worth getting to know people on the individual level, spending the time explaining what you are offering, and creating a reputation in the community with consistence. This is the best advice I can give when creating a business, non-profit, or any new service or product. Although it takes time and patience, the outcome is worth while.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The prettiest place in Houston, in my opinion, is the Menil Collection. The extension of the collection is large and incredibly interesting. The art is not only inside the building, but also in the Menil Park. The park is serene and filled with beautiful sculptures to admire. Siphon Coffee Shop is a great place to go if you want to try new things. You can try coffee that is brewed using the Siphon method and they have a range of syrups that are homemade too. These are my favorite go-to spots in Houston!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My mom is the key to what I have accomplished. She not only gives me all of her support and love, but also, gives me the best advice. Her wisdom is immeasurable and completely indispensable to me. I was so lucky to be raised by such a strong and independent woman. A woman with a bio chemistry engineering background who always strives for excellence has served me as the best mentor there is.