‘All worth it’

Going back to school in his forties was rewarding for Fortune’s Russell Simms

Published on September 9, 2015

Russell Simms (left) accepting his adult basic education diploma from teacher Gary Higgins at Keyin College in Fortune.

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Russell Simms admitted returning to school at age 47 wasn’t easy.

After being out of school more than three decades, he entered the adult basic education (ABE) program at Keyin College in Fortune almost two years ago to get his high school diploma.

“I didn’t think I would last because when you get older it’s harder to do these kinds of things,” Simms said. “After the first week, I thought this is not for me. But after talking to (teacher Gary) Higgins, he explained to me that you work at your own pace. He told me I’d have no trouble to get through it.”

While the studies were initially daunting, with his teacher’s encouragement every step of the way, Simms got through the program.

“Mr. Higgins was my mentor. I listened to him and it was all worth it. It all paid off for me in the long run. There are certain people you meet in your lifetime that stick out in your mind. He’s going to be one of those people for me.”

After completing the program, Simms, a resident of Fortune, went on to post-secondary training and is now working as a registered apprentice carpenter.

Simms had dabbled in carpentry in the past. However, without that piece of paper that proves his skills and competency, it was never easy to get a job at the trade.

“Having your papers is the most important thing,” he said.

Simms, who works for Bennett’s Construction, got a job within a week of finishing his studies as a carpenter.

He is proud of his accomplishments, he said, and now sees himself as a role model for his 14-year-old daughter.

“(She) is pretty proud of me,” the 50-year-old said. “I’m proud of her, too. She’s doing good in school, too.

Award recipient

Last week, Simms was named the province’s recipient of the 2015 Council of the Federation Literacy Award. Premier Paul Davis made the announcement in a press release on Sept. 8 – International Literacy Day.

Simms, who was one of 14 recipients of the award across Canada, said he was honoured to be selected.

The award was unexpected but much appreciated, he said.

“I believe that you truly are never too old to learn. And I learn something new every day. I only wish I’d gone back to school sooner,” Simms said.

Any person or group can nominate an individual for the Council of the Federation Literacy Award. Nominees must be a resident of Newfoundland and Labrador, 18 years of age or older, and have participated in an adult literacy, workplace literacy or adult basic education program for at least six months.

Higgins nominated Simms for the award.

When contacted by phone and told that his student had won the award, Higgins was pleasantly surprised. He offered his congratulations to Simms on behalf of students, instructors and administration at Keyin College.

They are all proud of his accomplishments, he said.

Higgins said Simms showed a keen interest and desire to learn and took full advantage of his second chance at obtaining his education.

As Simms’ literary skills improved, he said, so did his knowledge and skills in all ABE academic areas.

“Russell began to read in fields beyond the required curriculum and was soon inquiring/questioning things he read in philosophy, history, psychology, etc. These attributes led to my filling out his nomination papers,” Higgins said.

“Russell is a great inspiration and model for all and well deserving of the award.”