© photo by Joe Gibbons
In midlife, Florence Howse has discovered a love of reading, something she never imagined possible while in high school in the 1980s.
In fact, her experience in high school special education classes caused her to quit school.
Howse, whose nickname is Frankie, was the winner of The Telegram Learner Achievement Award at this year’s Peter Gzowski International (PGI) for Literacy Charity Golf Tournament.
“I am just so happy right now,” Howse, 48, told The Telegram Friday.
She was presented with the award Friday afternoon.
She said she was pushed through school in her young years without developing skills.
“This is the truth. It’s kind of embarrassing, but I didn’t even know how to study. I never felt comfortable in school,” she said.
Her experience was detailed poignantly in her applicaiton for the learner award.
“I spent a lot of time in special ed. I hated those words. You were referred to as someone from the dummy class by the other students. It made me feel segregated, depressed and abandoned by the system. I quit and went to work,” she wrote.
Howse is thankful for the College of the North Altantic adult basic education program (ABE) on Waterford Bridge Road, where everyone seems to respect one another, she said.
She began the program last September, received a 100 per cent mark for the first time ever and graduated this week.
And the discovery of the joy of reading changed her life.
“I never in my life read a novel or book from cover to cover until this year,” Howse said on her application.
The book was John Steinbeck’s “The Pearl.”
Howse said she would put down books in school if she got a page or two in and couldn’t understand them. As a result of ABE, she has learned she can ask for help, she said.
She is currently reading Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.”
Howse says she now feels like she’s going somewhere, and hopes to pursue further education so she can work with young adults with mental disabilities, to let them know they can learn and have a future.
“I want to go to college so bad,” she told The Telegram, thanking her ABE instructors Karen Barbour, David Noel and Jeff Sutton for helping her get through. She said the ABE program is a gift from God.
Howse is also thankful to longtime friends Cis Locke and Bill Locke, whom she considers like parents, and to another friend, Cindy Eddy.
“I have never felt this supported in my life,” she said. “They changed my world.”
In endorsing Howse for the award, Barbour stated Howse lacked confidence in the beginning, but it became apparent she was determined to get her high school diploma. Her ability to learn note-taking, organization and study skills helped her mark many milestones.
Her personality also had an effect on instructors.
“Frankie is also very kind, generous, thoughtful, friendly, helpful, outgoing and exuberant,” Barbour wrote in the endorsement.
Noel told The Telegram how Howse adapted to the various learning strategies to help her excel.
“As teachers, that has been an amazing thing to be a part of,” Noel said.
At graduation, the call went out for someone to say grace, and Howse volunteered.
“She did an excellent job. She’s really impressive,” Noel said.
He said Howse also had a positive influence on the class, took younger students under her wing and was also generous, bringing in snacks all the time.
Howse’s story shows the benefit the ABE program, Noel said.
“It’s no understatement to say it changes people’s lives.”