Steven Mulvey: Success Through Literacy

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Steven Mulvey recently came to Vancouver to talk about his literacy journey (Photo: Mike Leland).

Steven Mulvey has had challenges with literacy his entire life. From an early age, he was not interested in reading of any kind and he struggled to keep up in class, which, like most people, caused him to get discouraged. His discouragement showed through in the classroom and eventually he was held back and then moved into a special class. For a lot of people who deal with literacy challenges, this pattern is hard to recover from, but not for Steven. 

Growing up in Port Alberni, Steven was like any other kid. He was active, easygoing, filled with dreams and aspirations and he had plans.

“I always wanted to do something creative,” he says with a smile on his face. “I really like working with my hands.”

But Steven struggled with literacy and he continuously tested below average for reading and writing. This had an impact on his confidence and his self-esteem.

Steven started to act out in school and soon found himself getting into mischief; nothing serious, but enough to land him in hot water with several teachers and school officials. Before he knew it, he was being passed along through the system on his way to graduation.

Like others in his position, Steven found ways around his reading and writing challenges, which eventually got him through school.  He received his high school diploma – but Steven did not gain the literacy skills he needed to succeed in today’s modern world.  He actually graduated with a high school diploma that he could not read!

As he moved to the next chapter in his life, Steven found himself working – as he put it – in “mind-numbing jobs. I hated what I was doing, but I also knew my options were limited. I became frustrated.” But unlike the destructive behaviour that resulted in high school, Steven turned his frustration into determination and he came up with a plan. “I heard about Literacy Alberni Society so I walked in there one day and said ‘I need help.’”

As part of the intake process at the Literacy Alberni Society, Steven had an assessment done. Amazingly, after graduating with a diploma from high school, Steven was assessed at a grade three reading level. “I wasn’t surprised; I knew I had trouble reading. But it didn’t faze me. I was determined to make this work.” Steven was paired with a literacy volunteer and so began his journey.

After two years of working with the volunteer on a one-to-one basis, Steven had the confidence he needed to apply for his welding apprenticeship. He was accepted into the program and has since graduated. His newfound confidence pushed him to get his diving certificate and he has also gone on to getting his Occupational Level III First Aid certification. Not too bad for a young man who just two years earlier was reading at a grade three level!

Steven has a message for Literacy Alberni and his tutor: “Thank you!”

He also has a message to others in his position and it is simple: “If you are willing to work for it, there are people and programs out there willing to help.”

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