March 26, 2007
The following story was written by Michael Shaughnessy, from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Michael is running for the OLC Board this year. In 1989, he enrolled in the Program Read literacy program in Sault Ste. Marie. At that point, he was unable to read a single word. Michael had a lot of bumps along the way, but now, he can basically read anything that is given to him. His self-confidence has increased tenfold. In terms of his interest, he would like to see the day when we read about literacy problems only in history books.
Could I go to college? I didn’t know, but I decided to find out. After all, hadn’t I accomplished more than I ever believed I could? Maybe I could make this dream come true too.
I booked an appointment with a counsellor at Sault College to discuss the possibility of enrolling in a course there.
When my appointment day arrived I went up to the College. I could hardly believe I was doing this, and I know that four years ago I would never have had the confidence to do it. I was very nervous. It was the same kind o nervousness that I remembered feeling when I got up the courage to go and find out about Program Read for the first time.
I went inside the Colllege and asked the lady at the front desk how to get to the counsellor’s office. She told me to go down the steps, and to keep going down the long hallway until I saw a sign that would direct me to the office.
While I was walking down the hall I thought about the first time I had walked into Program Read and was asked to try to read from a book. I could barely read a word. Now here I was, just a few years later in a position where I could at least think about maybe going to college. This was beyond my wildest dreams!
When I got to the office I told the secretary who I was and she said,
a seat in the waiting room and the counsellor will be with you shortly."
While I waited I became even more nervous, and more than once thought of just getting up and leaving. The only thing that kept me from doing this was the problem I would have trying to explain to my family and my Program Read tutor Betty why I hadn't stayed for my appointment.
It seemed like forever, but it was probably only a few minutes, until the
counsellor invited me into her office. She introduced herself and
asked what she could do for me. I explained that I had been going
to Program Read for the past four year, and wondered if my ability was good enough
to get into a course at Saul college. She asked if I thought Program
Read had helped me and I answered,
"Yes." I told her that I had spent twelve
years at regular school and felt I had learned very little. I received
my grade twelve diploma, which I didn't think meant much, because I could
neither read nor write when I graduated. All of my exams had been
given orally. Now, thanks to Program Read and my tutor, I had learned to read,
write and do math. I told her I knew I that I couldn't make up
for all those lost years in this short time, but I was anxious to know
where I stood. The counsellor told me that I would have to take some tests to
determine my education level.
The first day I was given tests on general knowledge which took me from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. to complete. I was asked to return the next day for more tests. Once again I worked from 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. It was pretty exhausting! I was told to come back the following week to find out the results of my tests.
The next week when I returned I was very, very nervous. The counsellor discussed the results with me. She said she was excited about the tests that showed that my knowledge base and comprehension were above average. Although some of my other skills were weak, she felt that I could be taught to bring everything up to average or above. She said that I wasn't quite ready for Sault College, but I could take their upgrading course or I could stay with Program Read to help bring me up to the required level. I was quite happy with our discussion and appreciated the counsellor’s encouraging remarks.
On my way home I thought about what all of this meant to me. I was pleased that I'd had the self confidence to go through with it. This assessment showed me, for the first time, that I am as smart as the average person and it felt good. I also realized that anything is possible, not only for me but for anyone, as long as we work hard and never give up.