Community Learning Center grand opening on April 16, 2016, marks new milestone for a brighter Clearwater.
When my son and I arrived at the Community Learning Center, I had exhausted all of my means and I was really calling out for help. At that time, nothing else mattered to me. I was looking for anyone who could tell me that they could impact my kid and could empower him to do better in his education.”
Schenique Harris, a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Deputy and long-term community activist, recalls how she brought her son to the Applied Scholastics Clearwater Community Learning Center for help.
“My son, years ago, was having a rough time at school. He didn’t want to sit still—he was a boy! They tried to put him on medication. The teachers wanted to label him a ‘special’ student and that didn’t sit well with me. They wanted to hold him back a year. I knew that there was something great in him. I really saw more in my son than him being held back, medicated and getting a ‘special education’ diploma.
“The people at the Community Learning Center did not make a new kid. His lights were off and these people found what was in him and turned those lights back on, which enabled him to do better at everything, not just in school.”
Today, Harris’ son is a star player in the NFL (see: “NFL Star Gives Back to Community,” page 46). Although she found help just in time, Harris’ worry about her son’s faltering school progress wasn’t groundless. U.S. statistics paint this sobering picture:
Two-thirds of the students who can’t read proficiently by the end of fourth grade later end up in jail or on welfare. Ninety percent of high school dropouts end up on welfare. Nearly 85 percent of the juveniles who face trial in the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.
Closer to home, in Pinellas County, only 78 percent of students graduate high school.
The Clearwater Community Learning Center (CLC) opened its doors in a converted home on the edge of North Greenwood in 1998. At the heart of its conception was a group of community activists who believed that at the root of drug use, crime and immorality was simply a lack of understanding and an inability to function in society—and that education was one’s bridge into society.
The CLC is part of a network of a thousand Applied Scholastics affiliates worldwide. Applied Scholastics was founded in 1972 by a group of educators looking to implement L. Ron Hubbard’s breakthrough educational discoveries, known as Study Technology, to salvage failing students and raise education standards.
The CLC has grown considerably since 1998. On April 16th, 2016, the Learning Center cut the ribbon on its newly opened 7,000-square-foot facility, located just north of downtown Clearwater. The opening portended a future of nonstop activities.
The new CLC offers literacy and learning programs. It delivers low-cost tutoring, as well as free Homework Help and Academic Booster programs—open to anyone who needs assistance. Homework Help runs on Monday and Wednesday afternoons for elementary school students. The Academic Booster program gives teens help with their homework, including tutoring in any subject, and with SAT/ACT preparations. Since opening its new facilities, the Center increased its tutoring services to as many as 75 students per week.
In August 2016, the CLC also launched the Community Learning Center Academy with the objective of offering quality private school education, using Study Technology, to the underserved community. The school opened with 17 students; there are currently 28. Many of these students are able to attend because they qualify for an income-based Florida state scholarship program called Step Up for Students.
Fans of the expanded Community Learning Center include the overjoyed mother of a third-grade son who couldn’t read, but has now finished his kindergarten and first-grade reading programs and is starting to love reading.
There’s also the father who wrote: “We received a letter from our son’s school that he was being considered for retention (being held back in his grade). We decided to seek a tutor, and found Community Learning Center. Over the past two months Dylan has not only gained the confidence to read in class, but at his final assessment by the school, he is surpassing grade level expectations! He now feels capable and comfortable reading with his peers. Not only that, but he has started to read on his own at home because he now enjoys sitting and reading. It makes him feel so accomplished. I cannot say thank you enough for all the successes we have encountered so far.”
There are also plenty of fans among the students themselves—such as the elementary student who recently wrote, “I got Honor Roll for the first time and I passed with all As and Bs and one C. The tutoring is helping me so much.” Or the teenager who is being tutored at the Center and now is doing well in school for the first time in years.
Judge Linda Babb, who serves as Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court judge, is also an outspoken supporter of the Community Learning Center.
“In my courtroom, I see the tragic side effects of illiteracy every day. To not be properly taught and be able to learn things crescendos through your life and totally affects every small part of it. Those people that end up in my courtroom—they’re the people that just drop out.
“All children are teachable, you just have to know how to teach them. And that is what this Center does. It teaches children to read so that they can catch up and they don’t have to wind up in my courtroom.”