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Yvonne Greenidge

Our Trailblazer series celebrates the students who in Alta’s first decade braved the stigma of low literacy to speak publicly of their Alta experience.

Here’s the conclusion of the 1990s interview with Yvonne Greenidge, whose primary school education was disrupted by the need to work alongside her mother and then came to an abrupt halt due to a serious head injury, when she was struck by a car at age eight.

I want to read my Bible and I now have a verse I read for myself. When I see the big word, I could pick out one or two parts from it and try to make up the word.

My husband say how a big old woman like me go to class, and make me feel kind of embarrassed.

He had me feeling kind of down and I almost stop the class. But my teacher encourage me and say, “Don’t worry with him, do this for yourself.”

I don’t know if he can read, he cannot read the whole thing. But he putting out he does read and mamaguying me in some part you know. He most probably could read a little more than me, but it doesn’t look like he could read plenty because when I test him with my work he does kind of spell it, you know.

I like to continue with the class as long as God give me health and strength because when you go out, you could take the paper they handing out and take shame out of you eye and say something, so they won’t know directly you can’t read.

I would like to build up myself. The reading can benefit to you in, out and for yourself.

I appreciate this class a lot and I does pray for the teachers to have more faith and strength, and encourage them to keep coming.

Yvonne is proud to say she has been with Alta longer than any other student, which is true!

She also says that Alta CEO Paula Lucie-Smith, who taught Yvonne in her early years at Alta, started the Reading Circle for her which is also true. The accident has had long lasting effects on Yvonne’s memory making visual recognition of words unreliable, so although perseverance got her as far as level two, she needed ongoing support and practice to maintain her skills.

In 2004, Yvonne’s needs became the inspiration for Alta Reading Circles, where guides support individuals and small groups to practise the skills learnt in the classroom as they read high-interest, low-reading-level books. Another trail blazed!

For several years, Yvonne attended both class and Reading Circle, then transitioned to attending the two PoS Reading Circles, so was at Alta three times a week until her mid-seventies. She scaled down to two sessions and then as 80 approached, she decided she was ready to officially retire. In part, this was prompted by weakening eyesight due to diabetes.

Paula Lucie-Smith has this to say about Yvonne. “Throughout the 30 years I have known Yvonne, I have been impressed by both the effort she puts into whatever she takes on and her openness to new experiences. Having never left the country or ever had a passport before, Yvonne willingly accompanied me to a student/tutor literacy conference in St Lucia in 1994.

But what is most striking about Yvonne is her big heart and her enduring interest in the wellbeing of others. Once she discovered Alta, she wanted to share this with others and she spread the word of Alta up and down her hill, not just in official media appearances for Alta.

She became a one-woman welcoming committee for new students joining her class at Alta and chief organiser of the end-of-term class party, where she would lead the thanks to tutors and express her joy in Alta, not just in words but with her signature dance of praise and thanks. She would always say, “Alta is family,” and she both lived this and helped to shape this.

Yvonne is a mother in the Baptist church and she became a mother to all at Alta, students and tutors. Neither her generous spirit nor joy in living has been dampened in the slightest by poverty and the hard knocks of life. The end-of-term class party is a fixture throughout Alta, and her spirit of giving has infused Alta.

Yvonne now lives contentedly in Alta retirement at the grand age of 80, still very much connected to her Alta family and she will ever be an Alta advocate.