In 1991, Brian Tom’s seedling educational center, Cerritos Education Center, consisted of a one-room homework lab, a used van, and a staff of 5 employees. Twelve years later the educational services company has transformed to become California Educational Centers Inc., or CEC, now boasting two office suites, an interactive website (www.cecvision.com) and a staff of more than 30, including credentialed teachers, graduate, and undergraduate students who reach out year round to students throughout the community, with a wide range of academic solutions. Today CEC’s future looks bright, with its continued support from the community, through partnerships with institutions like the Los Cerritos YMCA, Borders Bookstores, the Cerritos Library, the California Chess Academy, and a host of other companies that trust in CEC’s vision for a child’s educational success. However, when Brian was diagnosed with Glaucoma in 1992, at the young age of 21, the future seemed bleak. As a young entrepreneur, Brian was facing a whole new world of challenges, each of which seemed all the more daunting with the threat of partial, if not complete blindness.
Initially, Brian experienced the gamut of emotions that comes with the diagnosis of a life-long illness, but found a way to move beyond self-pity and depression. He found CEC. After each of his 5 eye surgeries, Brian would cut short his recommended recovery time to be in the office, working with an eye patch on. Every hour he worked toward building what is now one of the largest, private educational services center in Southern California, Brian felt farther away from his diagnosis, and closer to his dreams for CEC. As his focus on work grew more intense, his family and friends drew closer to him to provide him an emotional outlet, and a safety net to fall back on when it was time to put the work aside. While the facility and the student base has grown and changed, the principle behind the company remains the same. The vision was and still is for an educational center with 3 core values: safety, education and fun.
Together these components, along with the mission statement, “to help each student reach his/her highest academic and social potential” brings to life an educational center whose unique environment inspires academic and social success for its students. CEC continues to be at the forefront of education, constantly developing new programs designed to inspire every aspect of a child’s mind, and utilizing the latest in educational technology in its multimedia computer lab, Vision Learning Labs. As the company has grown, so has the diversity of its clientele. CEC’s goal is to make its educational services available to all students, of all backgrounds. With this goal in mind, Brian has worked hard to find financial solutions for the company’s families through partnerships with SLM Financial and the Children’s Home Society, and by offering special year-round discounts.
CEC continues to be an integral part of its neighboring community, fueled in large part by Brian’s eagerness to build connections and give back to the community that enthusiastically supports his company. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Girl Scout Council of Greater Long Beach, has coached Miss Cerritos Pageant contestants, is a public speaker for the Cerritos Chamber of Commerce, ABC Unified School District, and The Braille Institute. Recently he opened up his company to two of the Foundation for the Junior Blind’s STEP internship participants, allowing them to shadow staff members and gain better insight into the careers they are considering. At CEC the two students were able to gain a comprehensive view into the world of education, business administration and entrepreneurship. Brian was eager to share his experience, and felt he could truly relate to them as young adults entering into the professional world with a visual impairment. When he spoke with the students, Brian was excited to see how much they had already achieved, and hopes that after their experience at CEC, the two view Brian as the type of mentor he wishes he had when he was dealing with his visual impairment. As their mentor, he hopes that he has been, and can continue to be a part of these two students’ success.