Scientologists in Clearwater
Improving Education - a Freedom interview
the Church of Scientology established its international religious retreat in Clearwater
in 1975, Scientologists have become a vibrant part of the local community.
The Church has created facilities in Clearwater to deliver the highest levels
of Scientology religious instruction and counseling to parishioners from all corners
of the globe. Some decide to make the sunny Gulf city their permanent home, to
raise their family or start the business they always dreamed of. Today, Scientologists
number more than 12,000 throughout the Tampa Bay area. They make up a diverse
group in Clearwater. They come from all walks of life and ethnic groups.
In this edition of Clearwater Freedom, we interview Sharon Hillestad, mother
of three and grandmother of three, and executive director of the Community Learning
Center in Clearwater. As a former public school teacher and school director in
Minnesota, Sharon uses her education skills to help children who have been left
behind in modern schools.
Freedom: When and why did you come to Clearwater?
| Sharon Hillestad with sons Hans (at left) and Matthew,
daughter Holly and grandchild in Clearwater.
: I came in July 2000 because my daughter Holly is here, and she
invited me to help her tutor at the Learning Center. I had taught Holly myself,
but then had not been teaching for several years. Then here she was, carrying
forward with the purpose I'd always had. I realized how much I missed it, and
I knew it was what I wanted to do again.
Of course Clearwater's weather and environment also had a big influence on
my choice. It's so much better here.
Freedom: What do you like the most about Clearwater?
Sharon: There are so many things to do: parks, theatre, a cultural center,
and so many other things. I also have my work close by to where I live. I can
get places fast, and I get to be around my grandchildren. I'm very close to the
family I have here.
Clearwater has a small-town feel, but it's large enough to offer so much more.
I've learned there's quite a bit of diversity, too, which I love. I've made a
lot of friends in the community because of my work at the Community Learning Center.
Clearwater has so many diverse people — it has Russians, Ukrainians, Hispanic
Americans, African Americans, people of Caribbean Island and West Indies descent,
and [laughs] lots of Southern folk.
I've made many friends here and we do things together.
Also, I get to work with kids all the time, which is a lot of fun.
Freedom: What do you like most about what you do?
Sharon: Seeing kids change and families grow stronger. We tutor the
children, but we also teach the parents how to help their children at home. This
brings the entire family together.
|A former public school teacher and school director, Sharon
helps children to master study skills at the Community Learning Center in Clearwater.
Last year, for example, we taught the parents of a 7-year-old boy how to tutor
their son. They tutored him two nights a week, and then we tutored him twice a
week. He came up from performing at a kindergarten level to his proper grade level
and it was the parent's participation that really did it. At first, they were
reluctant to get involved, but then they really pitched in and they feel really
good, seeing the young man perform so well at school now.
If needed, we get involved with the childrens' lives. I love nothing better
than seeing a kid shine through, despite the barriers life puts up.
One young man who came to the center was an obvious athlete. Sometimes he'd
leave early because he said he was going to football practice. Well, as it turned
out, my son-in-law saw the boy at the neighborhood football practice, but he wasn't
participating. He was running on the outside of the field. Later, I asked him
why he wasn't part of the football team. He said he wasn't going to be doing football
anymore, as if he wasn't interested. But the real reason was that his mother didn't
have the $150 to get him a membership.
I gave the boy a game. I worked out a program for him that will bring him to
grade level, which includes reading a lot of books, and I told him that if he
gets through that, we will get him a scholarship. Well, he was very interested
in staying in football after all, and of course we're helping him to finish that
program. It's obvious to all of us that this young man could become a professional
"What I like most about what I do is seeing kids
change and families grow stronger."
: How does your work at the Learning Center compare to what you
were doing as a public school teacher?
Sharon: When I was first teaching, the profession was more open. Teachers
were given a lot of room to do their jobs. However, later I used to feel like
I was in a big castle and they were lowering the bars around me.
I saw the classroom library go out; each classroom used to have a big library
and all that got taken away. The schools are way too complicated. I definitely
want to work with the teachers more, not because they don't mean well, but because
they just don't seem to know what to do.
Freedom: As a member of the Church of Scientology, how has your affiliation
with your religion helped you in what you do?
Sharon: I've learned to be more responsible for my life and for others.
It gives me the answers to problems or where to find those answers, and I know
that I can make a situation come out right.
I uncovered the education morass years before I found Scientology, but was
just struggling with it. I didn't have an effective way to handle it. If I hadn't
found the Church of Scientology, I would have just dropped my ideals, given up,
withdrawn. Instead, I got new hope.
Especially as a teacher, I was amazed at how important learning is in the Church.
I found out all about the education breakthroughs L. Ron Hubbard had made. It's
actually a technology of study, it's that precise, and it's even called 'study
technology.' He developed it to help Scientology students, but as we're proving
at the Community Learning Center, anyone can benefit greatly.
T H E
S O L U T I O N:
L. Ron Hubbard
EDUCATION, LITERACY & CIVILIZATION
and literacy affect us all. Information about remarkable and practical discoveries
in these subjects is available in one of a series of publications about various
aspects of the life of L. Ron Hubbard: L. Ron Hubbard: Education, Literacy and
Beginning with a fascinating description of Mr. Hubbard's own experiences
in education and culminating in his breakthroughs in the field — some of the
most innovative and successful methods employed today — this installment is both
an informative publication and a highly useful tool. The study and teaching techniques
detailed can be employed by parents, teachers, employers and students — anyone
concerned with teaching or learning.
You will discover the 10 instructional guidelines upon which a successful
education depends. And why, from the halls of industry and major corporations
to single classrooms in the smallest of local towns, millions swear by Mr. Hubbard's
For your copy, write to:
Public Affairs Director
Church of Scientology
503 Cleveland Street
Clearwater, FL 34616
With study technology we know what the three barriers are to study and we know
how to spot and handle them, so that anyone can learn anything. That's incredibly
stabilizing and powerful in itself. We show parents this, and they begin to really
understand why their children aren't learning, and even why they themselves didn't
do so well in school.
More often than not, the problem is that both parents work and time is scarce.
What I always like to tell the grandparents is that this is where they can make
the difference. We can easily teach them how they can become tutors and so help
the kids and the whole family.
From what I learned in Scientology, I changed the way I was dealing with problems
in education, not just fighting the nutty things I saw, but taking responsibility
for them. Now I've learned how to really fight against poor education — I teach
kids and parents the L. Ron Hubbard study technology and this way, everyone wins.