Des Allemands resident is learning to read at age 59
To most it seems hard to imagine a life without the ability to read and write. Life is hard enough let alone living everyday without the basic ability to read street signs, restaurant menus, look up a number in the phone book, or even read the newspaper. “I never could figure out why people stared at the newspaper so long. Then I realized they were reading,” said Curtis O’Neil Young of Des Allemands, who has lived his whole life with out the ability to read. At age 59, he has taken the first step of a long journey towards a new ability to read and write.
“I do it for the Lord. He brought me to this place. I know that the Lord will never tell me wrong”, said the new student at the Boutte Adult Learning Center. “I quit school in the fifth grade. I had to stop going to school partly because I had to work for my family and because I was kinda bad in school. I never knew how to walk away from a fight but now the Lord helps me walk away,” said Young. “My main goal is to be able to read my bible.” As a member of the Antioch Baptist Church in Des Allemands, Young says, “you can only get so much from church on Sunday, I want to know the word of the Lord so I can be closer to God.”
When speaking of his past and how he got to this decision, Young said “I have made mistakes. I can’t deny that. I can’t go back. I can only go forward. And the Lord will help me.” Young has given up smoking and drinking and is moving towards a better place. “There is nothing I can’t do without GOD.”
As an adult student at the Boutte Learning Center, he is taught everyday by teacher, Shannon Knowles. Together they have started at the very beginning with lessons in phonics. After every lesson, together they spot check words in the Bible. “These are words he can memorize and recognize other places and be able to read them,” said Knowles. “He is very excited to be here. He comes on time everyday and if I am late or if he is early, he waits.”
“It takes a lot of courage to walk through the door and admit that you need help learning to read,” said Shirl Cook, Coordinator of Adult Education for St. Charles Parish Schools. “The goal of the Center is to offer a voice to people that have lost their voice,” continued Cook. “He is a special person. It took bravery for him to come here so late in life and learn something new,” said Shannon Knowles, Young’s teacher.
Recently, Young suffered from a stroke which left him paralyzed on his right side and impaired his speech. He walks slowly but surely with his long cane he calls “highway 90”. “Those short canes I call ‘key chains’. I needed a cane as tall as me to walk.”
Even with disabilities, Young is an inspiration to anyone that wants to take that first step to becoming a literate person. He is a clear demonstration of courage and proof that it is never too late to walk through the door and ask for help. With a deep look of satisfaction and assurance Young said in closing, “Even if I have to crawl, I will keep moving forward with the Lord by my side.”