Great Minds Learning Center recently received a $2,000 grant from the John & Katherine Boentje Family Hibbing Foundation Fund.


The grant will be used for scholarships for reading students at Great Minds Learning Center in Hibbing.


“We are honored to have been selected for this generous donation,” said Marianne Jylha, executive director of Great Minds Learning Center.  “The Hibbing Foundation has given us a vote of confidence that we intend to prove worthy of.”


Great Minds Learning Center is a non-profit organization that offers specialized individual instruction in reading, spelling, writing and math. It was founded by Jylha in 2011 in Grand Rapids and has recently expanded to the Howard Court in Hibbing.


Scholarships for Great Minds Learning Center students are awarded in the form of a tuition discount.  Students must qualify for free or reduced lunch to qualify for the scholarships.


“My dream upon founding Great Minds as a nonprofit organization was that we could partner with philanthropists and other organizations to make services accessible to all families," Jylha said. "It is wonderful to have this dream come to fruition with the help and support of others.”


For more information on services available or to partner in support of Great Minds, please visit www.gmlc.co or call (218)999-5525.

GMLC Hibbing Tutoring 1


Great Minds Learning Center has recently opened a new office in Hibbing’s Howard Court.

“We began working with a handful of students in Hibbing in 2012. Our tutors worked from tote bags, meeting at the library,” said Marianne Jylha, executive director of Great Minds Learning Center (GMLC). “While the work space was nice, there were many frustrations with scheduling due to holidays and unexpected closures.”

“I am thrilled to have a home for our Hibbing tutors and students. They have done so well making do with what they had,” Jylha said. “Now they have access to private workstations, educational games, books and and other teaching resources.  The Howard Court Management has been wonderful and generous in lending furniture and providing signage. We are grateful to Hibbing for the warm welcome!”

Great Minds Learning Center is a non-profit organization that offers specialized individual instruction in reading, spelling, writing and math.  Jylha founded Great Minds in 2011 in Grand Rapids after seeing how the Barton Reading System was able to help her own daughter, who has dyslexia.

Since then, Great Minds Learning Center has served more than 200 students within a 60 mile-radius of Grand Rapids.  In addition to the new Hibbing office, GMLC recently moved to a new larger location in Grand Rapids to accommodate its rapid growth.

“We really appreciate the work Marianne [Jylha] has done with Great Minds Learning Center,“ said Linnea Walli, a parent of two boys who have received tutoring at GMLC. “She started something to support her own child, but then took it a step further to help other children.  Her passion is awesome to see. She really does want the best for all these kids.”

Walli said she saw such a positive transformation in her oldest boy Rex, that she didn’t hesitate to return to Great Minds Learning Center when his younger brother Mac needed help.

“Rex can read so well now, that teachers sometimes forget he has dyslexia,” said Walli. “He’s on a normal playing field now.  The help he received gives him the tools to have the confidence to be a strong reader. The school has been really great in supporting our kids, but I know we would not be where we are at without the tutoring at Great Minds.”  

Mac has been at Great Minds Learning Center since last summer, and is also making progress.

“We’re still getting there,” said Walli. “But I recently saw some reading scores that show he’s made huge leaps from the beginning of the year.”

Walli said Great Minds Learning Center is a good place for struggling learners looking for an alternative way of learning.

“We knew our kids are super smart, they just learn things differently. We knew we had to figure out how we get those reading skills where everything else is at,” Walli said.  “The Barton System is a whole new approach to reading and is a great way for any student to learn - not just those with dyslexia. So many kids could benefit from learning this way.”

The Hibbing office, which is located at 302 East Howard Street, currently has four part-time tutors helping students develop their reading and math skills.  Great Minds Learning Center offers scholarships in the form of discounted tuition to students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.

“We believe everyone should have access to the help they need,” said Jylha. “We’re excited to be able to reach so many struggling learners.”

Visit www.gmlc.co to get help today!  You can also sign up for helpful emails, make a donation and learn about becoming a Great Minds tutor!    

By Elana Warsen


When he’s not in school, nine-year-old TJ Holmgren can be found on the baseball diamond, hockey rink, or cruising on a four-wheeler. Most people would be surprised to learn that the Cohasset Elementary third grader, known for his sense of humor and love of the outdoors, has also logged hundreds of hours in a quieter environment—the tutoring classroom at Great Minds Learning Center.

TJ’s tutoring journey began when his first grade teacher raised concerns about his reading progress, prompting his parents to seek out one-on-one tutoring at GMLC. “My husband’s coworker said that Great Minds had helped his daughter, so he recommended we call [Executive Director] Marianne Jylha. Within a week she had us scheduled with a tutor,” says TJ’s mom, Stacy Holmgren.

“TJ came to Great Minds not experiencing success in school,” recalls GMLC tutor Jennifer Skaar, who worked with TJ for two years. “He was insecure and didn’t understand why he was struggling. He was a first grader who wanted to quit school.”

Jennifer was “totally, 100% sure” that TJ was capable of success, but getting there would require hard work. “He came to tutoring twice a week, even in the summer,” Jennifer says. “There were times when he was tired and didn’t want to come, but he kept pushing forward.”

TJ admits that balancing tutoring with school and sports practice was a challenge. “It’s hard going to tutoring after school,” he says, “but Ms. Jennifer makes it fun. She goes over everything a lot to help you understand, and you get to play games.”

Together, TJ and Jennifer set out to fill TJ’s imaginary “toolbox” with “tools” (reading rules) he could use on his own. He started improving right away. “TJ’s toolbox got full real quick,” Jennifer says. “Within two weeks I saw a different demeanor in him. He was more positive. He was smiling. He was experiencing success.”

TJ’s hard work at tutoring led to results in the classroom. On his first grade end of the year reading assessment, his teacher wrote the following note: “TJ has made great gains this year, especially this spring!”

Every few months Jennifer and TJ tracked his progress toward grade level goals using an assessment tool called DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills). At each checkup the difficulty level of the text increased, and so did TJ’s mastery of grade level skills. His DIBELS score in June 2016 was just 24.5%. By January 2018 it had climbed to 98.9%.

“It makes me proud,” TJ says of his dramatic improvement. “It took a lot of hard work but it feels good.”

Stacy gets emotional when talking about her son’s DIBELS data.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “I knew he’d been working very hard. Every single session he came home with reading passages he had mastered. When Jennifer shared his DIBELS results I was in tears. I was shocked to see how much progress he had made since his last DIBELS score [in October 2017]”.

In February of this year, Jennifer gave the Holmgren family another surprise. She told them she thought that TJ was ready to “open his wings and fly,” to graduate from Great Minds Learning Center.

“I was in tears,” Jennifer says of the “bittersweet” realization that her two-year journey with TJ was coming to an end. “TJ was all excited. His mom was in tears.”

Tutoring required hard work and sacrifices for the Holmgren family, but Stacy says TJ’s success was worth it. “Great Minds is worth the investment,” she says. “Don’t be discouraged by the cost or the time it takes you to get to your goal. It pays off in the end.”

TJ rarely opens up about his learning difficulties or his attendance at GMLC, he says. But he broke his silence to send an important message to other kids who might be struggling in school. “Great minds helped me and it can help you too,” he says.