Rocky Holbrook served in Columbus, Ohio in the mid-1980s.
In the fall of 1983, I was a young returning college student just beginning a career in art at Columbus College of Art and Design. As a student with dyslexia, the college was obligated to provide assistance, given the Disability Act of 1973.
I arrived at the humble store front office of Basic Skills with its painted over, pegboard walls and used heavy metal office furniture. I was graciously welcomed by Sue and Steve, the only two staff members. Steve put me through some tests. At the end of the assessment, he told me I had an oral reading score of three point blah blah and my comprehension was at college level. I didn’t know what three point meant, so I asked. I will never forget what happened: Steve drew his chin down, swallowed, and said calmly, you are reading on a third grade level. Steve quickly redirected my attention to my comprehension and what the agency could do for me.
In the months after, I became increasingly involved with the small agency. Wonderful blue-haired ladies of Upper Arlington who were Basic Skills volunteers helped me immensely. During a sabbatical from college, I took a position as a VISTA writing public service announcements, ringing the bell of our fledgling agency. All this time, I was hoping to reach others like myself who needed help in these world of words.
These were the years before the success of Barbara Bush and Project Literacy U.S. Many of the social issues were kept behind closed doors. Just as with all of history, a few like-minded people chose to tackle a problem larger than themselves and the outcomes can be measured in collective minds of society. Mention the word literacy now and most understand what it means. It was not always that way. Small steps taken by individuals help grow the cause and later success of others build on it.
Human kind will never tire of hearing how someone, anyone, has bettered themselves through hard work and determination. It is as Scott Peck wrote, “all meaningful change is made from self discipline.” And I believe that self discipline begins with the observation of others making their way, the power of the individual story. As “my wonderful blue-haired ladies,” the volunteers of Basic Skills, would say, ‘now you are cooking with gas.”