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First Reflections, "GAGDC Saved My Business"

It was sometime after a trial run of our parent test prep company ACT Prep Chicago (2010 or 2011). We had just finished our first year of business and were ramping up for our second year. We partnered with Love to Serve, a tennis organization that did after school programming for high school tennis players. Love to Serve had a huge facility in Evergreen Park, IL (great location) and our first couple of classes there had many students and went well. 

However, Love to Serve decided to change its venue. In order to continue operations, we at ACT Prep Chicago had to find a new venue for operations. At the same time, my relationship with the co founder of ACT Prep Chicago was contentious, so we decided to go our separate ways.

Without much money, I found a very small office in Homewood, Illinois. I had a few students from our previous location in Evergreen Park, one of which lived in Homewood. Additionally, Homewood is a pretty affluent suburb of Chicago, IL and I thought there would be plenty of opportunities to provide ACT test preparation to its residents. Things were looking promising. 

However, a few of my students who promised to continue classes in Homewood decided not to continue classes with us, including the student who lived in Homewood. Other potential students who lived in Chicago decided that Homewood was too far to drive or travel on public transportation. That left me with 3 students!


At that point, I thought ACT Prep Chicago would be no longer. There was no way I could survive with three students. Furthermore, my income was limited, so I had to work another job as a math tutor, which meant my time was also limited. I was also struggling with health issues; thus, my energy was also limited. I was thinking that I would finish with my current students, give up on ACT Prep Chicago, and just work my tutoring job with Gregg Tutorial. 

God had other plans! 

One of my students at that time happened to be Kyle Benson-Nelson, the son of Carlos Nelson, the CEO of GAGDC (Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation). Carlos, known to me as "Uncle Skeet", is extended family. He took us kids to many outings: Christmas tree lightings in downtown Chicago, college visits, city tours, etc. 

Fast forward a few years and he decided to enroll his son in my ACT classes. On the first class in Homewood, Carlos was in shock at our new location. Kyle started with us at our Evergreen Park location, which was huge and beautiful. Our Homewood location was a small conference room. You could sense the shock, almost disappointment, in Carlos as if he was thinking, "I drove ALL the way out to Homewood for this????"

After the class, Carlos waited for all the other students and parents to leave and sat me down to have a discussion. He had been telling me for some time that I needed to visit his newly renovated office in Auburn Gresham. I usually said "Yeah. Definitely!" but never got around to it. Carlos said, "Man, you really should bring your class to my new office. It looks great! You'll have more space than you have here, and I'll charge you less money. And I can help bring in some students." I couldn't believe the generous offer but was a little hesitant given the not so stellar reputation of the Auburn Gresham neighborhood. However, I didn't have many students and figured I was about to end the business soon anyway. What did I have to lose?


The office was much bigger, newly renovated, beautiful, and had two conference rooms, in which I could conduct multiple classes at the same time. There was also a copy machine, a waiting area, and it was easily accessible to Chicago residents via car or public transportation! 

And the office culture was AMAZING! The office workers, Carlos, Linda, Norma, Newkirk, Ernie, Cheryl, Tenisha, Tanya, Jimmy, Sheenita, were all nice and friendly. It was a family atmosphere! They all fully supported my tutoring business by not only enrolling their children, but also telling their friends and family members! My enrollment shot up almost immediately!

GAGDC included my classes on its website, in its  calendar of events, took pictures and wrote articles about the classes, and more! GAGDC also provided scholarships to a few students who lived in the neighborhood but couldn't afford the classes. These students would walk into the office and inquire about the classes. Carlos would overhear the conversation and invite the student into his office. After a conversation to gauge interest, Carlos would offer students full scholarships to our prep classes and tutoring services.

Every year after my first year of business at GAGDC's office, my business revenue increased! I helped many students achieve their test prep goals, get into college and obtain scholarships. Students came from all over the Chicagoland (even Indiana) to partake in the tutoring sessions. One of my most notable alum, Noni Brown, recently graduated from Harvard Law School. And of course this is Carlos' niece. 

I went from struggling to make ends meet to being listed on the first page of Google search engine for ACT prep classes in Chicago primarily due to  GAGDC!

ACT Prep Chicago was growing but I was still working my other tutoring job. In 2015, the bosses of my other tutoring job retired. That's when I decided to add Mr Glenn's Math Tutoring to my test prep operations under the business ACT Prep Chicago. I had an offer to buy the tutoring business (Gregg Tutorial) from my bosses but decided I wanted to continue operating ACT Prep Chicago at GAGDC. I wanted to offer quality, affordable tutoring in a location that didn't have many quality affordable tutoring options.

For the next 5 years, I would successfully run ACT Prep Chicago (including Mr Glenn's Math Tutoring) in the office of GAGDC. The pandemic has changed operations to online, but I look forward to returning to in-person tutoring when the pandemic ends.

I am so very thankful to Carlos Nelson and the GAGDC staff! (tearing up as I type this) ACT Prep Chicago and Mr Glenn's Math Tutoring would not exist if it weren't for you opening your arms to embrace me and support my unbelievable growth! What a blessing!!! I love you guys and look forward to working with you guys in the new high tech classroom facilities, at the new Auburn Gresham Healthy Lifestyle Hub coming in 2022!!

For comment or corrections feel free to email or call:
Phone: 773-474-2540

For information on our services visit our website at ACT Prep Chicago (

Posted in Education, The Vision, Business, Housing, Economic Development, All news, Newsletter


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