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From Humble Beginnings to Thriving Center: Remembering The Literacy & Learning Center's Journey

The Literacy Council of Highlands, as it was first named, boasts a remarkable journey. It started in 1993 with a simple mission: to address the lack of free reading resources for children in town. At the time, a handful of volunteers unofficially came together to support a few children, laying the foundation for what would become a cornerstone of the community.

By 1995, the growing need for help led to the official establishment of the Literacy Council of Highlands, a 501(c)3 organization. Utilizing the basement of the Methodist Church and the Hudson Library, they continued to bridge the gap for children and adults seeking literacy support.

The need for a dedicated space arose as the Council's impact and student base grew. They moved to the Peggy Crosby Center, eventually utilizing multiple rooms to accommodate their expanding programs. 

In 2017, Bonnie Potts joined as Executive Director and expanded both the type of programs offered and the number of participating students. First, the after-school program was opened to anyone needing additional academic assistance, including math and science. The program was greatly extended from two to five days a week. A partnership with Highlands School was created so that teachers could refer students whom they identified as needing extra support.

Recognizing the limitations of shared spaces, the Council embarked on a new chapter in 2018. They identified the "old post office" building as their potential learning center and embarked on a significant renovation project. While programs temporarily relocated to the Highlands Rec Park and the administrative offices found a temporary space in Highlands Plaza, the vision for a permanent home solidified. 2019 brought the completion of construction, and TL&LC programs and administrative offices settled into their new location next to Bryson's Food Store.

Today, The Literacy & Learning Center, as it was renamed during a rebranding process in 2020, thrives in its renovated Learning Center, serving a more extensive student base and offering diverse programs that address evolving community needs. Individuals served in 2023 through the range of programs include 50 after-school programs, 50 summer camps, 25 individual tutoring programs, 12 ESL programs, and five GED students. Additionally, 1,000 books were given out through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, and 2,000 were given out during community Halloween and Christmas events with the financial support of Highlands' Mountaintop Rotary Club. Finally, 32 volunteers provided 640 hours of service through programs, particularly after school. 

This remarkable journey reflects the unwavering dedication of staff, board members, volunteers, and supporters who continue to empower individuals through the transformative power of literacy. As these efforts continue, TL&LC looks to the future and the addition of a new Pre-K program. Enrollment guidelines are still underway and approaching completion. The application period will be announced soon. For more information about programs, contact Caroline Cox, or 828-526-0863.



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