These are the workdays Ron Foley loves. The latest SAT and ACT scores are out and his phone has been blowing up with messages since 5 a.m.
Foley skims a few of them and reads out loud.
“‘Are you awake? Are you sitting down?’,” he reads.
“And then they send me a picture of the results, like this,” he says, holding up his phone. “And then I look back on the kid’s track record and see he went up 9 points on his ACT and say, ‘Oh my God,’ because that’s a life-changing thing. That really is the thing that motivates me and has kept me going in this for 30 years.”
A veteran of for-profit education giants Princeton Review and Kaplan, Foley struck out on his own in 2006 to launch his first Foley Prep tutoring and college entrance exam training center in Watchung. Today, Foley has locations in Fair Haven, Warren, New Providence and soon-to-be Haddonfield. But none of them are quite like his Bell Works hub.
The prototype Foley Prep to date has been a brick and mortar storefront along a downtown main street close to a high school. Moving into the 2 million square foot metroburb was a major departure, and one that came about by chance.
An avid cyclist, Foley and a friend were riding on Crawfords Corner Road in the spring of 2017 when the iconic, transistor-shaped water tower caught his attention. At the time, Foley recalled, the building was still filling in but already generating a buzz. Out of curiosity, Foley decided to take a look inside. He knew immediately this was where he had to be.
“It was a definite leap. We talked to a few clients [of Foley’s former Red Bank location] who said they would come, and ever since then, more and more have been coming,” he said. “The word is getting out and they are inspired. They say this building is absolutely amazing – the kids and the parents.”
For a mom or dad dropping off the kids, Bell Works has been a great selling point. Instead of killing time in a waiting room – which tends to make kids nervous anyway – parents can go to the café, hang out in the library or use the building’s free wifi.
Foley has embraced the vibe set by the building’s architecture, imparting his Holmdel hub with a more modern design than any other site. He loves chatting with students around a white Saarinen tulip table in his main meeting area and has a matching black one in a back study space. In the main testing room is an airplane wing table – a nod to Saarinen’s celebrated TWA terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
A tenured math professor at Middlesex County College, he considers the Bell Works site “Foley Galactic Headquarters” and regularly works there six days per week. Foley recalled being the first occupant in the on the first floor of building 2 when he opened in September of 2017. His space faces the back gardens. Since then, he’s enjoyed watching the campus flourish and can’t wait to see what’s comes next.
He’s also not done growing at Bell Works. Next up, Foley hopes to do some wheeling and dealing to launch a Bell Works Cycling Club.
“That would be a dream,” Foley said, thinking it over out loud. “The cycling club is a done deal. We’re definitely doing it!”