The Literacy Council of St. Petersburg is a non-profit, tax exempt, 501(c)(3) dedicated to helping people take a forward step in their lives by creating an environment for learning that encourages the development of each individual’s potential. The organization was established in 1968 to meet the educational needs of Adults in south Pinellas County by offering innovative tutoring and learning programs.
Our goal is to unleash the power of literacy that improves lives. Through a wide range of literacy services – including reading, writing, math, life, technology, and work skills – The Literacy Council of St. Petersburg helps a diverse population of learners in south Pinellas County meet their needs and achieve their personal and employment-related goals.
In 1968, St. Petersburg resident, Ruth Feldman, heard Frank Laubach speak in 1968 about his “Each One, Teach One” program to train people to read. She decided to bring the method to her hometown, and enlisted eight women to be tutors, and the Literacy Council of St. Petersburg was born. With the help of the Pasadena Community Church, the Council received $100 to purchase literature. It was decided then that teachers would pay for their own material, but students would pay only if they could afford to do so. The Council welcomed its first pupil, and soon the original class members, having received their Frank Laubach certificates, started organizing more teacher training classes. The Council received official status as a non-profit organization in 1971.
The organization grew and many of its students were immigrants learning English for the first time. So in the mid-1980’s, the Clearwater group formed its own organization, the Literacy Council of Upper Pinellas, and focused on its English as a Second Language program.
In 1986, a special adult program was begun with the tutors meeting one-on-one with students in St. Petersburg at Lakewood Community School. Northeast Community School and Dixie Hollins Adult Education Center, soon followed. Three additional locations have since been added, including pTEC South Campus, Seminole Community Library-SPC Campus and Tomlinson Adult Learning Center. Each location now has its own coordinator who interviews students and assigns them tutors.
According to Virginia Gildrie, who came to be one of the Council’s prolific life-members, “The reluctant student who has had negative experiences at school, willingly comes to meet just one person who focuses on him. In addition, the sites are close to the homes of both the student and the tutors, and the student sees others who are working as hard as he is, and is encouraged by that.”
Mrs. Virginia Gildrie passed away February 5th, 2011. She will be sadly missed, but her legacy lives on through an award in her husband’s name recognizing an Outstanding Tutor of the Year. Courtland Gildrie, until his death in 2005, served as a coordinator for many years.
Documentation of the history is being archived with the Historical Society of St. Petersburg.