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Learner story archives

September 20, 2004

This week, we have a story written by Lynda Richards , from Swift Current, Saskatchewan. Lynda is now the President of the Saskatchewan Literacy Network. She also holds down two jobs and does extensive volunteering. For many years, she has been speaking out on the importance of literacy and learning. Here is her amazing story of success.

Great to Be Alive!

by Lynda Richards

Two out of every five people in Saskatchewan ages 16-69 have difficulty with reading and writing and I am one of those people. I have always found learning hard. I couldn't stay focused on what was going on. The other kids teased me and made fun of me. When I acted out, the teacher would put me in front of the class and make me read and the other kids laughed at me.

I was from a low-income family without a mom and an abusive father. My clothes weren't always clean. We lived on a farm and I smelled like the barn lots of times. After a while, I didn't care if I was in school, at home. I lived in a dream world and what really happened didn't happen. After a while I didn't really know reality from fiction. I hated everything in my life except for the relationship I had with my brother.

In 1970 my brother was killed in a car accident. After this, I ran away. I was going to find him and I ran around the country from the east coast to the west coast. I had reached the bottom and there was nowhere to go except to work my way back up the ladder.

I had a good counselor and a daughter who believed in me and kept telling me I could do it. I was tired of my past, having low-paying jobs, or being on welfare. I was tired of telling my daughter we can't afford this or we can't afford to go there. I was tired of sally-anne clothes. I was tired of looking at the ground. I wanted to see stars. I went to the Adult Basic Education (ABE) program. I first had to write a test to find out where I was in my education. Then I started at grade 10. Grade 10 was not too bad but I was having some problems with writing and doing tests. Then came grade 11 and the bottom fell out of my studying. I couldn't pass my test. I was having trouble completing competencies. I was scared of being a failure again. The school started questioning my ability and I started to feel that I should quit my studies and only do the GED. I was angry, upset, confused, stupid.

We agreed that I take a comprehensive test and if I could pass the GED, I could start at my regular classes again. All of a sudden, Bobbie Baker heard about me and invited me to attend their learner support group. I finally found people with stories like my own.

My confidence started to improve. I started going at night as well as during the day to take reading from a scratch program. I then got a tutor, Bill. He was great! He taught me learning skills, like mind mapping, making a song out of the first letters of words I had to remember. I passed my GED, went back to classes and finished my grade 11 and part of my grade 12. I then was accepted at Woodlands College to take the Chemical Dependency Worker Program and I got my diploma.

"Going back to school has given me life. A life that I never had. Today it's great to be alive."

Since I went back to school, I have become a grandmother four times, and run two businesses. I was a member of the Movement for Canadian Literacy Learners Advisory Network and now I'm the President of the Saskatchewan Literacy Network board. I am a member of a learners' support group, and the Learners Speakers Bureau. I'm also on the Literacy Benchmark Committee as a learner rep. I volunteer for Victims Services as well as the Experienced Mothers program.

My daughter and I have an awesome relationship. She is my hero and I am her hero. This relationship alone would have been enough. All these things have happened to me in the last 11 years. I believe if I hadn't gone back to school, I would have lost my daughter, been in the hospital or dead.

[This story was taken with permission, from Learners in Action, Fall 2004, published by the Movement for Canadian Literacy (MCL).]

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