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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Partnering to Success

   Partnerships can be one of the most powerful tools to develop new, innovative programs.  Today I would like to highlight one of the best examples of this in our County. 
Community Based Learning Centers, (CBLC) one of Howard County’s most successful learning programs, will celebrate its fifteenth anniversary Thursday, June 9, 2011 at the Ten Oaks Ballroom in Clarksville, Md. Founded in 1996, and using the motto Knowledge Is Power, the Howard County Public School System affiliated-program is designed to accelerate academic achievement.  Its primary focus is to provide academic support and mentoring to K-5 students in reading, mathematics and social skills in a safe, stimulating, and nurturing environment centered at the subsidized housing communities in which CBLC students live.  In over 15 years the Centers have reached 1800 Howard County students.
            The 15th Annual After School Banquet will recognize students who participate in the program, honor dedicated volunteers, and award the Dr. Elsie J. Walters scholarship. The banquet is open to the public.  Tickets are $5.00 and can be reserved by calling 410-730-9554, e-mailing: Patricia Branner-Pierce at or or going to
            Since its inception in 1996, an estimated 1800 young people, and adults returning to school, have participated in the CBLC program. The program has approximately 125 students currently enrolled and operates at the Community Homes’ Roslyn Rise and Rideout Heath complexes, Swansfield Elementary School, Forest Ridge Apartments, Monarch Mills and at the Tiber Hudson Senior Citizen Center in the Hill Top housing community in Ellicott City.  While the majority of the CBLC students reside in or near these properties, the program is open to all students in the Howard County Public School System. Eighty-five percent of the participants are African American. The students represent more than five different ethnic groups. Fifteen-percent come from homes where English is not the primary language, and 5% come from homes where English is not spoken at all. Family involvement is encouraged and is a key element of the program.
            Community Based Learning Centers are a collaborative effort between the Columbia Housing Corporation (CHC), the Howard County Public School System Black Student Achievement Program, HCPSS Office of Family Community Outreach, and the Department of Recreation and Parks.
            Howard County Public Schools System BSAP Specialist, Mrs. Patricia Branner-Pierce, facilitates the day-to-day operation of each of the centers, trains the coordinators, volunteers and tutors, and creates the curriculum for learning.  Parents volunteer on a regular basis and donate snacks and drinks in lieu of tuition.
            Noted Branner-Pierce, “After 15 years, we can see how successful this program is, and what it means to the community.  We have many former students who have graduated from college, and are now working in careers in the area and around the country. We have students, now working adults, who recognize how important the program was to their lives.  They come back and volunteer with today’s students.”
            According to CHC Executive Director Grace Morris, “Over the past 15 years, our students and their parents and guardians have reminded us that residents of subsidized housing are dedicated to getting an education, and to advancing their lives. Our residents, including adults working on their education, have often overcome many hardships and work harder than those who have greater financial resources to get ahead.”
            One student from the program has come back to work with the program.  Nicole Brown participated in the program as an elementary student in 1999.  As a high school student she started to volunteer for the program. After being the first one in her family to attend college she was able to use the scholarships provided by the programs to help her with her college expenses.  She stresses that in addition to the help with school work the program helped her to learn life lessons that made her a more mature young adult.  Today she is the Assistant Coordinator of the program at Stevens Forest Elementary School.
          Annual funding for the Community Based Learning Centers is provided through a grant from the Local Children’s Board.  The Columbia Housing Corporation and the other affordable housing complexes in the community furnish the space, utilities. CHC is responsible for the staff, insurance coverage, and accounting services. 
CBLC at Guilford Gardens
The Community Room at Guilford Gardens
7333 Oakland Mills Road
Columbia, MD 21046 

CBLC at Stevens Forest Apartments
The Community Room at Stevens Forest
5862 Stevens Forest Road #A
Columbia, MD 21045 

CBLC at Roslyn Rise
The Community Room at Roslyn Rise
10339 Twin Rivers Road
Columbia, MD 21044 

CBLC at Swansfield Elementary
Swansfield Elementary School
5610 Cedar Lane
Columbia, MD 21044

CBLC at Rideout Heath
5891 Harpers Farm Road
Columbia, MD 21044

For more information the contact is:
Patricia Branner-Pierce
Black Student Achievement Program
Elementary Programs Faulkner Ridge Center10598 Marble Faun Court Columbia, MD 21044
Office:  410.313.6771.,

Columbia Patch today has an interesting article on an ad for Columbia in 1967 that touted the ability to walk to work in Columbia. 

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