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Arnie Stewart Award

Blake Konkle: 2014 Arnie Stewart Award Winner
The Literacy Council of Niagara West

Blake has improved his skills in reading despite his dyslexia. He has been able to learn how to use a computer (even learning how to write and receive letters via email) and has trained himself to interact well with other people in business and learning environments. He has also completed requirements for certificates in WHMIS and St. John's Ambulance First Air courses.

Dyslexia has played a huge role in holding Blake back in terms of self-esteem, but it has also made him greatly determined to fulfill his goals despite his challenges.

Blake used to believe that his ability to learn and succeed would always be limited because of his difficulties with reading, but his dedicated hard work has paid off in confidence. Now that he has been able to experience gains from his efforts, he continues to learn and allow himself to be challenged by tasks he never imagined doing. When he does well, he is even more capable than before.

Blake is one of the first people to tell you that his initial reticence about literacy held him back, and he encourages new learners to commit themselves to working with their tutors to improve their skills.

He speaks well of his experiences at his council, he encourages others to persist in their own efforts to do well, and faces up to his own fears and prejudices about learning (for example, in learning how to use computers) in order to continue to grow. In this way he's showing very good leadership abilities in trying to encourage others not to be afraid, and not to give up. And he's come very far.

Blake is an example of all the possibilities that exist when someone is determined to use the resources at hand to overcome difficulties. He readily tells new learners about his experiences, and has volunteered to liaise with our Funders for interviews to talk to them about the support he's received in learning to read (and his need and desire to see that support continues). Blake has always been so determined that his enthusiasm has rubbed off on others. He is one of The Literacy Council of Niagara West's biggest supporters!

Name of Nominator: Arlene High, Executive Director, The Literacy Council Niagara West

Congratulations to the following nominees that received Honourable Mentions:

Jeremy Katz, Hamilton Literacy Council

Jeremy has gained many computer, leadership and communication skills as well as his basic literacy skills. Jeremy is now able to work indepently on the Learning Hub to continually upgrade his skills. He improved his employability by participating in the Workplace Essential Skills Training Program. He also completed a Peer tutoring workshop.

Jeremy struggled with his communication skills, but now relates clearly with students and staff members. He has severe arthritis affecting both his mobility and his ability to write, but now is proficient on the computer keyboard, and using a mouse.

Jeremy was the Chairperson for the Hamilton Student Council. He is now serving as a volunteer in the Digital Computer class, helping with I.T. problems, and helping the students as they are working on their files. He also helps other students as a Peer tutor, constantly providing support and encouragement.

Jeremy volunteers at many events at the Hamilton Literacy Council. They have two annual book sales where he helps to set up and clean up at the end. He also sells to the customers and helps promote their council to the public.  He is a classroom assistant in two Digital Technology classes. Jeremy continues to serve on the Student Council and participates in the setting up and cleaning up at the council's Annual General Meeting.

Ron Desmasdon, Gateway Centre for Learning

Ron has steadily improved his reading, writing and math skills. He can read and understand the newspaper now and he finds his reading comprehension much better.

Having improved skills has impacted his daily life as he is living with diabetes. He has to read his monitor, administer the correct amount of insulin four times daily and record the amounts accurately.

He has always had difficulty expressing himself verbally and in writing. He now has the ability to write sentences that he will let others read. More importantly, he has increased confidence in his ability to express himself clearly when speaking and he is much more comfortable interacting with others. This is allowing him to live a fuller, more fulfilling life.

Ron has many health related issues. He has always had difficulties hearing and wears hearing aids. He has eye problems and has to rest his eyes frequently. He also has diabetes and sever arthritis which affects his mobility. Somehow through all of this, he has a smile for everyone, remains positive, and strives to improve himself. He likes to do milestones to see how he is doing and he asks for suggestions and homework to do on his own time. Ron attends classes regularly on his day off work.

Ron is an exemplary learner. He sets goals for himself and always tries his best. If he doesn't succeed the first time he keeps trying until he does. He has been overheard telling the tutor to be hard on him and to point out all errors they see.

Ron recently volunteered to be interviewed and videotaped for the Gateway Centre for Learning website. He wanted to give back by taking part in this, even though it meant speaking in front of a camera. This was huge for Ron considering his years of feeling he could not express his ideas well. By taking a risk and discussing what the classes at Gateway have meant to him he may help others to take a risk and open the door to learning.

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