A graduate at last
58-year-old happy to hit the books
A graduate at lastAMANDA MOORE/STAFF PHOTO
Rubert Payea is a high school graduate at 58. The Beamsville man learned to read and earned his diploma with the support of the Niagara West Adult Learning Centre. Pictured with Payea are tutor Sue Minchin and Arlene High, executive director.
Grimsby Lincoln News
By Amanda Moore
BEAMSVILLE — It was not that long ago that Rubert Payea had to choose his food by looking at the pictures.
"I couldn't be sure if I was buying cat food or tuna," said the now 58-year-old who last month officially became a high school graduate.
The journey to literacy began with recovery for Payea.
When he was one year sober, his sponsor told him it was time to get his life back on track. They happened to be in a church parking lot across from the Fleming Library.
"I looked at the library and I said to myself, it would be nice to read all those books," recalled Payea.
It took a lot to step through the door. He was hesitant, ashamed of the fact that at his age, he couldn't read even simple, three letter words.
But he took the steps anyway.
Staff at the library told Payea about their neighbour, the Niagara West Adult Learning Centre. They said the agency could help him. They told him he could learn to read.
And he did.
It didn't come easy. It has taken years for Payea to get to where he is now. He kept at it and now enjoys writing mysteries.
He credits his accomplishment to tutor Sue Minchin, who he was worked with for close to seven years.
"She knows where I am going to have problems before I even get there," said Payea. "She makes me fell comfortable."
Minchin has also been patient with Payea and encourages him to problem solve for himself. His whole life friends and family have helped him to spell, but have never really taught him to spell. When he asks Minchin how to spell something, she responds by asking him how does he think it should sound.
"That's not exactly true," said Minchin, when Payea mentioned he still has trouble with big words. "You think you can't, but you can."
It was Minchin's encouragement that saw Payea achieve something he never thought possible — earning his high school diploma. When Minchin learned Payea was only a half credit shy of completing the curriculum she got on the phone.
"When I found out it was just a half credit, it seemed so minimal," said Minchin. "I thought it was important because of all of his hard work."
Now that Payea has his diploma he is looking at higher education.
"Now that I have my Grade 12 college is often on my mind," he said. "I'd like to learn more about computers."
In his time at the centre, Payea has gone from pupil to tutor. He is considered the computer "guru" and is the go-to guy for any computer-related question.
"I've always been good with my hands," said Payea, who was a woodworker and antique dealer in the past. "Now today, I'm good in the brain too."
In 2004, Payea was at the same reading level as a Grade 1 student. Today, his reading is between 75 and 95 per cent accurate. He is an avid mystery writer and keeps a blog on his journey to literacy. Follow Payea's blog at www.freewebs.com/rubertsleapinreading