The Blog

Community Learning Center and We Believe in Me

Group shot of We Believe in Me students (from above)Back in the spring of 2015,  Community Learning Center (CLC) began working with the We Believe in Me Foundation (WBIM) to help talented young athletes who did not have the academic scores necessary for admission to college. Brenda McCarthy and Jerry Wunsch, co-founders of We Believe in Me, have been working with CLC staff to get students qualified. Jerry was an offensive lineman for 9 seasons in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Bucs and the Seattle Seahawks.

Our Community Learning Center and We Believe in Me athletes have been working hard to improve their skills, and therefore their grades. Here is a success from of one of our student athletes:

“The Community Learning Center has helped me tremendously. Before I joined this family, I was struggling but I fought my way through and started studying and focusing on my grades and the ACT test all summer. I did virtual classes while others were having fun and enjoying their summer.


I got B’s in a full year of English. Without any of these people that entered my life, I would not be going to the University of Akron.


These people are great and they love their jobs. They worked to help me prepare for the ACT and earn a score of 24, which is excellent!


Thanks to everyone who believed in me and never gave up on me!”–D.G. (Teen Athlete Student)


Handwriting Instruction – A step-by-step approach

Boy writing banner
Steps to Handwriting 
(Work on 1 step at a time!)

Written by: Holly Haggerty, Executive Director

1. Holding the pencil correctly – see video below for demonstration

2. Controlling the pencil – tracing and dot to dots are great for this and fun too!

3. Forming the letters – i.e. R not Я

4. Writing letters with uniform letter size – i.e. “dog” not “dog”

5. Writing with uniform slant – i.e. “dog” not “dog”

More on Forming the Letters (more…)

What’s Wrong with this Picture?

Holly's cartoon scribble for Blog Post #4Written by: Holly Haggerty, Executive Director

In my last post I discussed the phenomenon of pile on—asking kids to do work that is above their instructional and developmental level.

This phenomenon occurs right away in kindergarten where kids are expected to learn how to write lists, narratives, information, and opinion pieces before learning to print the letters. Pinellas County Schools recommends that teachers provide handwriting instruction only twice a week for five minutes.

The fact is, it is expected that at the end of the year kindergarteners will produce narratives in barely legible scrawl.

It has been that way for many years. We see the results of this practice at our Center—middle and high school students whose handwriting is barely legible. Many of these same students hate writing—perhaps because writing was difficult for them right from the start, having been asked to write full texts prior to mastering the letters.

In the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, the previous set of Florida standards, kindergarteners were expected to learn the following writing process:

1. Pre-writing
2. Drafting
3. Revising
4. Editing
5. Producing a finished piece of writing 1

The same standards said that by the end of kindergarten students will “print many of the upper and lower case letters and recognize the difference between the two.”

In the new set of standards, LAFS (Language Arts Florida Standards), the following benchmark is given for the end of kindergarten:  “Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose opinion pieces in which they tell a reader the topic or the name of the book they are writing about and state an opinion or preference about the topic or book (e.g., My favorite book is…).”

Again the standards say that the student will “Print many upper- and lowercase letters.” 2 (more…)

“Pile-on” or Preparation for Life?–You Decide

Preaparation or Pile On -Cartoon for Blog Post #3

Written by: Holly Haggerty, Executive Director

Three recent real examples of schoolwork from our students:

  • An 8th grade girl who can’t add 6 + 7 without counting on her fingers and can’t do subtraction problems that involve regrouping is working on finding the slope and y-intercept on a graph in school. (If you don’t understand that, don’t worry, neither does she.)
  • A 7th grade boy who hates to write is asked to write a high-level comparison of plot development and plot structure between Emily Dickinson’s poem “I had been hungry all the years” and Teasdale’s “The Lighted Window”.
  • A 3rd grade girl who has not mastered single digit addition has math homework asking her to find the unknown quantity in problems like this:  X-24+7=48.

If you chose “pile-on” then you agree with how each of these students felt with that homework—piled on.

Most people would agree that a good educational system prepares students for life. (more…)

Do you know more than a kindergartener is supposed to know?

NeedATutor -Cartoon by Sioux Hart

Written by: Holly Haggerty, Executive Director

Which one of these would you expect a kindergartener to do on their first day of school?

A. Write a Story
B. Learn the names of the letters
C. Write a sentence

If you chose B (learn the names of the letters) you would be wrong. On my daughter Dagny’s first day of kindergarten, she was asked to do C–write a sentence.

When I enrolled Dagny in kindergarten this year, it was not without some amount of trepidation. My older three children had attended private school throughout their elementary years and came out with their basics fully in.

But my husband and I decided to enroll our fourth child in a public charter school which emphasizes the arts. The school is also one of the top schools in the county for students performing at grade level.

We felt that if any child could succeed in public school it was Dagny. After all, I had practically been preparing her for school since she was born.

I was not prepared, however, for the curriculum changes prompted by Florida’s new standards. (more…)

Resolve to help even more in 2015!

Holly Haggerty head shotI am really proud of everything the Community Learning Center has accomplished over the past 16 years—first and foremost, the educational help we have provided to thousands of struggling kids across Florida.

In 2015 however, we want to take our help to the next level. For years, we have been helping parents by providing them with tips and tools they can use to help their own kids. This year we plan to make these tips and tools more easily available by publishing on our blog. Additionally, we will discuss what we observe is being done well in schools along with what is not. Because we help kids from all over the county, we have a pretty good perspective on what is happening or isn’t.

The fact of the matter is this:  in spite of the huge number of wonderful teachers, administrators, caring parents, active community groups and smart kids we have in Pinellas and Florida, something is wrong—very wrong. Nearly 30% of Florida students drop out of school 1 and here in Pinellas 45% third graders read below grade level.2  (more…)

Free Books and Art for Kids event!

Kristen Harper, Alex and group of CLC kidsPlease join us in the new year – Saturday, January 10, 2015 from 11am-1pm for our FREE Books and Art for Kids party right here at the CLC at 1411 N Fort Harrison Ave in Clearwater! We will have free books for kids to take home, art instruction, face painting, music and snacks. We will also have Will Rhame, author of The Voyager Series, joining us to do a book reading and show you how he combines reading with the internet for a fun, new way to learn. You don’t want to miss it! 
This event is open to the public. For more info, call the Center at
(727) 441-4444.

What are little boys made of?

CLC StudentsWritten by:  Sharon Hillestad, Director of Tutoring

What are little boys made of? Snips and snails and puppy dog tails. That’s what little boys are made of. What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice and everything nice. That’s what little girls are made of.

This charming little ditty introduces an alarming report:  Why Are We Losing Our Boys? It appears that boys are having significantly less success in school than girls. Girls usually can handle little or no physical activity, early literacy instruction, and zero tolerance (discipline) policies better than boys.

The report is copyrighted by the Pinellas Education Foundation which was founded in 1986 and has raised more than $110 million dollars to support the students and teachers of Pinellas County Schools.

Boys are suffering, be they rich, poor, white, black, Asian, or Hispanic.

The sons of college-educated parents suffer. Almost 25% of high school graduate sons of white, college educated parents have “below basic” reading levels compared to 7% of the girls. This means that almost one in four boys who have college educated parents cannot read a newspaper with understanding and will not make it in college.  (more…)

Speed of Now seminar

Tony MelvinTHE SPEED OF NOW–a seminar with Tony Melvin!

You will learn how to:

          • Create an automated lead generation and sales process (he’ll actually show you how to build a system live in the workshop!)
          • Find the exact online systems you can use (most are free!)
          • Systematically boom your business and turn it into a money-making machine
          • Use 3 key ingredients to create a business that works without you (so you can focus on expansion or have the freedom to do what you want)

Training location (and for more info): 

Community Learning Center
1411 N. Fort Harrison Ave
 Clearwater, FL 33755 
Date: Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014
Time: 10 am to 2 pm 
Cost: $75
Monthly sponsors and non-profits come for FREE! 
Please RSVP by calling us at (727) 441-4444 ext. 1007.

Thank you, Bernie!

Girls with dictionaries -cropped

Thank you, Bernie!

Recently, Bernie Littman donated over 500 Webster New World student dictionaries worth $4,000 to the Community Learning Center to give to our children. We have been able to give every new family who attends our Free Books and Art for Kids event a brand-new dictionary, in addition to the gently-used books the kids take home and all while teaching them the importance of getting your words defined. Thanks for making this possible, Bernie!

About Bernie Littman…

Bernie LittmanBernie Littman is the Founder and CEO of elearnAid. He has long been fascinated with computer-aided study assistance and making good dictionaries accessible on computers. Bernie has an extensive collection of English dictionaries now on CD on his website at: