By Gina Martinez
After a suggestion from a friend a Bellerose, a stay-at-home mom completely switched careers and opened her own after-school center in Flushing.
Shalini Outram was in the medical research industry as a research scientist. Outram earned her doctorate in biochemistry from the University of North Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Science in 2009. After graduating she worked as a post-doctorate fellow at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey until 2012.
“I was working as a scientist studying breast cancer,” she said. “I was in a lab setting, and it became kind of daunting. I knew right away it wasn’t the right fit for me.”
She said during her time in the research field one of her colleagues had a child whom she took to Kumon.
Founded in Japan by educator Toru Kumon in 1954, Kumon is the world’s largest after-school enrichment program. The centers teach math and reading skills to students from pre-K to high school, using the Kumon method, an individualized-study plan. Even seniors or adults who need help are accepted. There are hundreds of centers around the country, and over a dozen in Queens alone with centers in Jackson Heights, Kew Gardens and Sunnyside.
Outram’s friend told her that her children were doing really well in school and that the people in Kumon were very helpful. This was when the Kumon program first came onto her radar and she was intrigued but had no children of her own at the time.
“I made a mental note that when I had a kid I would enroll them into Kumon.” she said.
After graduating from medical school Outram got married had two children, and was a stay-at-home mom with the kids. It was during this time when she was reminded of Kumon, because her daughter was 2 1/2 years old and had a love of books,
‘She really enjoyed reading and memorizing the books,” she said. “I wanted to encourage her, but I wasn’t sure how to do it at home because she could not go to school yet. That’s when I contacted a nearby Kumon Center.”
She brought her daughter in even though she was only 2 years ago, a year younger than the 3-year-old requirement, to see how well she tested and it turned out her daughter enjoyed doing the work. Outram said it was a lot of fun, so she enrolled her daughter.
“I was so impressed with the culture,” she said. “How instructors are so attentive, the staff knew everyone by name. It was just a very welcoming and supportive environment and we both enjoyed it.”
Outram said spending time at the center helped reveal her real passion in life, and after three months of training and help from people at Kumon she was ready to open her own center.
“It was completely different,” she said. “Night and day. I knew that from my training with medical research that I wanted to do more teaching. I wanted something different than just being in a laboratory setting. I wanted to interact with students. I had that passion from the beginning and I wasn’t sure what age group I wanted to work with, but having kids can change your entire outlook on life.”
She said she realized very quickly that she liked working with the younger age group. Outram believes her background in science gave her the basis for teaching math and reading, something she believes you have to have in order to teach.
She opened her center on March 12. The class sizes are still small but she is excited about what is to come. Right now her center, located at 149-36 Northern Blvd., is open on Monday and Wednesdays from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Outram said Kumon is a great business for someone who has a love for education but does not necessarily want to go down the road being a traditional teacher.
“It’s teaching kids in a way that is a little different,” she said. “I love that I know them personally and depending how long they’re in the program, I can watch them grow and mature with their education.”
Outram thought Flushing was the perfect location for her center. She grew up in Rosedale and attended Townsend Harris High School in Flushing, so she was familiar with the area.
“It’s great and it hasn’t really changed as much throughout the years,” she said. “I’m happy to be back. I love the diversity, it’s honestly a melting pot of so many different cultures. It’s really great to see kids from all walks of life. It’s a wonderful place to work and grow in.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart