There are words in an old country song, “Everything is changing fast. They call it progress, but I just don’t know”. It lingered in my mind as I read a recent story about the closing of the Tomlinson Learning Center in St. Petersburg, FL.
There are many reasons why the center closed. This narrative is certainly not a commentary on any of them. Rather, it is an attempt to pay honor to the relationship that KET Adult Education has shared through the years with Tomlinson, largely through Holly Heintz, a long-time instructor there.
Holly has worked in adult education for more than 30 years. She became acquainted with KET Adult Education when she discovered a math book she liked. By researching where it came from, she found KET and from there has utilized KET’s evolving resources from VHS and print materials to today’s online, on-demand digital courses.
“Through the years I have found KET resources to be effective and my students do well with them,” Holly says. “She has shared her experiences with other Pinellas county staff hence, a large number of adult learners have utilized our products in their studies” explained Sarah Wilkins, Adult Education and Workforce Director at KET.
Most importantly, periodically Holly shares the accomplishments of her learners with KET. “It is so special to see the learners that we strive to serve be successful,” Wilkins continued. “We often see names and statistics but when we get to know their stories, it is the most rewarding thing.”
A few of the student stories Holly has shared with KET recently from Tomlinson include: Zavier McKenzie, Patricia Echols, and Kenneth Reddick. Kenneth, mentioned in the article about Tomlinson’s closing, was a student at the center for nearly a decade.
“Kenneth has significant sight impairments and found it very difficult to view digital materials on a white background, “explained Holly. “FastForward (from KET) allows learners to change the screen color. This allows students to stay focused and those with vision impairments to successfully interact with the content. Kenneth found a blue shade that he preferred and now we affectionately refer to it as Kenny blue.”
Kenneth is one of the final graduates from the Tomlinson program. Holly has transitioned to adult education director at a Job Corps site at Lakewood Community School. As the story states, the fate of the Tomlinson building remains to be seen but one thing we know – a lot of good happened at Tomlinson Adult Learning Center. Lives were changed. Relationships were established. Futures were impacted.
KET is proud to have been a resource in the Tomlinson classrooms and looks especially forward to continuing to support adult learners throughout Florida. Bittersweetly we process the news of Tomlinson’s closing but look forward to the progress still to come for adult learning in Pinellas county.