By Ashley Stilson
Look at these words. Look at these squiggles and scratches creating 26 letters that form all the happiness and sadness in the world of words. Now look at these words and imagine only knowing the two- or three-letter words and skipping the rest. Welcome to the life USU Eastern Skills Lab student Clarence Vouk lived for 38 years.
Born in Price and graduating from Carbon High in ’75, Vouk had trouble reading since second grade. His high school teachers were unable to spare time to teach Vouk the skill of reading. Finally, 57-year-old Vouk wanted to learn how to read.
“I was struggling all the time. I just wanted to get some help to learn how to read,” Vouk said. “I couldn’t even read to my kids.” He worked in construction most of his life, but had trouble filling out applications and reading instructions. The advice he was given was to skip the words he did not know. He was reading at a second grade level; there were too many words he had to skip. “I’ve been reading like that since ’75,” he said. “Until now.”
Vouk didn’t know where to go for help. “If I would’ve known how to re, I wouldn’t be a construction worker. I would be doing something I like doing,” Vouk recalled. His dream job was to be an architect, a dream that wouldn’t be fulfilled. “Since I didn’t know how to read, it put me down to where you can’t do anything,” he said.
While receiving help from the Vocational Rehab, Vouk was recommended to take a class in the Skills Lab at USU Eastern. He remembers feeling right at home the minute he walked in. “It made me feel pretty good,” he said about the moment he realized he was progressing. “I wanted to go forward and learn how to read.”
“I want to get a big word and be able to say the whole word,” Vouk said about his goals for reading. “Now, I’m starting to do it.”
The Skills Lab is a computer lab equipped with an A+ program to assist with reading, writing, vocabulary and math. The A+ program gives students practice and test questions and several tutoring sessions in a specific skill. Students can take as many of the programs as they would like.
Student counselor Kim Mortensen is ready to help anyone who wants to sign up for the skills classroom. “Clarence came to me and he expressed a desire to learn how to read,” Mortensen said. “He, to me, represents truly what education is all about: that you can learn something new. It can empower you. It can change your life. No matter where a student is at, no matter what they think they can’t learn, they can.”
The cost of the Skills Classroom is affordable, leveling at $1.65 an hour depending on the timetable of the student plus a $20 monthly lab fee. Students and community members can sign up at the registration department at any time with Mortenson in the McDonald Career Center room 200. The Skills Lab is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday in the Reeves Building room 113.
“You just have to put your mind to it and go for it,” Vouk encourages. “Just come out and try it. See what they can do. It changed my life.”