By Walter Brown

Special to the Citizen

I didn't finish school beyond the 10th grade because I had almost no help with my school work, and I just didn't get the importance of school. My mother, father, brothers and sisters had very little education; only one of 12 kids in my family finished high school.

As I got older, I learned how to work to make money instead of learning my school work. So, when I got behind in my grades, I dropped out of school. I can't even understand how I made it to the 10th grade. I think my teachers just passed me.

I grew up through segregation and integration and that made it hard on school kids also. In seventh or eighth grade, we marched several times for equal rights during school hours to the Atlanta Courthouse from Covington while white kids stayed in their classes learning. For this, we were put in jail many times.

When I reached the age of 17, I joined the U.S. Army. Afterwards, I went to work as a truck driver for 24 years. I drove trucks all over the Southeast without knowing how to read a map. I found my way around with instructions given by other truck drivers spoken through the CB radio.

Sitting in the doctor's office one day long after I'd retired, I read the Newton READS sign: "Get help with your GED or driver's license... FREE reading through Newton READS." So I called and got started in the Newton READS program one year ago.

Since then, my reading has improved along with my spelling and my speech.

I also needed help in math. My Newton READS math tutor, Joe, started me in math from the very beginning. He told me that if I could memorize my times tables through the number 12, that I could do any other math problem. He told me that I could even go to college.

And I'm finding how much reading is involved in math. I can read and even understand the math problems now, and it all ties together.

I have been working with Joe on math since April and am studying geometry already. Next, I'll be moving on to algebra.

In my early 50s, I was called into the ministry and realized that, in order to teach, I must learn and understand more about the bible. Because of the education I've gotten through Newton READS, my spiritual life has improved. I received a diploma of ministry this past summer and serve as reverend for Good Hope Baptist Church in Covington.

Not everything has been positive for me through this experience, however. As I started expanding my knowledge through Newton READS, my life changed in many ways. I have had very little support from friends and family who don't understand why I'm studying all the time. It has been a struggle for me. My relationships have changed and are still changing. Some have ended.

But, I feel good about the knowledge I've gained through Newton READS. The program is so good, I do not want to stop. I would like to continue my schooling forever. I would like to see just how much I can learn and how far I can go.

I've learned that knowledge, experience and memories are three things no one can take away from you. It's taken me a long time to become the person I want to be.