Tribeca kids on fast track to learning

BY Andrea Riquier

Ilysa Winick had a high-pressure job on Wall Street for 12 years, but said she never once took her work home. That changed recently when she started her own business. The Tribeca resident opened FasTracKids, an educational enrichment program, on Reade Street, this past June, and currently enrolls about 105 students.

“The response from parents has been amazing,” she said.

FasTracKids utilizes an interactive, Smartboard-based curriculum to achieve its mission of “developing little leaders in a way that’s fun” with a focus on public speaking, communications, and developing confidence. Winick’s facility also includes a franchise of a company called E.nopi, which is a workbook-based approach to reading, writing, and math. The two programs are not usually found in concert, but Winick said there’s an “obvious synergy” between the two, and many of her students participate in both programs.

One thing that differentiates FasTracKids from other programs is its use of video technology, not only as a tool for teachers to demonstrate lessons, but also to document students’ performance in class and their progression through the program. Melanie Begun, a Tribeca resident whose two-year-old son Hawke is enrolled in FasTracKids, knew all about the program from her sister, whose children attended FasTracKids’s uptown location. Begun’s sister proudly sent her children’s videos to all her family members.

“I was thrilled when Ilysa opened up downtown,” Begun said. “Going to the Upper East Side was not an option.”

Hawke started at FasTracKids in Septmeber and has been thriving.

“Their methodology is not only enriching but also completely engaging,” said Begun, who heads the philanthropy efforts at Morgan Stanley. “It has all the ingredients for making successful boys and girls into successful adults.”

Winick said about 95 percent of her students live downtown – primarily Tribeca, Battery Park City, and the Seaport. She believes FasTracKids fills a hole in the community. “There are gyms and art and music, but no academic enrichment programs,” she said. And her students are internationally very diverse, coming from places like Bulgaria, Ecuador, and Korea.

Winick learned about FasTracKids when she was pregnant with her first child, Benjamin, who is now 14 months old.

“I had a great run on [Wall Street], but halfway through my pregnancy we were having layoffs,” she said. “I wanted more balance and wanted to do something I believed in. When I learned about this I fell in love with it.”

Her biggest challenge was finding the right location and building out the space – but once she found the Reade Street location, just west of Church Street, it was a natural fit.

“This street is the new Sesame Street,” she said.

There are two other children’s facilities on the small block already.

Although the response has been overwhelmingly positive, Winick wants to limit the number of classes she runs this fall, with the goal of expanding the number of classes next semester. And beyond that, she said she’s already scouting other locations.

“I’m trying to follow the mushrooming of the public schools,” she said.