Read #8216;em and Reap

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

While the backhoe Leroy Harbor operates for Neighborgall Construction may look like a giant toy, the message he and contractor Charles Neighborgall told to St. Lawrence Elementary School students Thursday is not to be taken lightly.

As part of “Right to Read Week,” the pair of construction workers told students their future success is closely tied to their ability to read in their formative years, whether they someday operate a back hoe, teach a class of children or just about anything else they may want to do to earn a living.

Harbor and Neighborgall were among several local professionals who visited the school as part of the week’s activities. The students made their way through a series of demonstrations by Bob Clyse, automobile dealership owner; Scott Ensor, a teacher for the visually impaired; Dr. Ursala Nance, a veterinarian; Erica Ramey, a speech pathologist; Adam Heighton, a pilot; and Randy Rogers and Rob VanKeuren; Lawrence County Sheriff’s deputies.

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Neighborgall told the children that while his job may not appear to require a lot of reading, in fact, the opposite is true.

“You have to read lots and lots of correspondence and contracts,” he said. “You have to write and read sub contracts. You have to be able to read specs and legal documents and technical information on all the equipment.”

Heighton, a pilot for Continental Express, told the kids there was more to flying the friendly skies than just sitting in the cockpit.

“I have manuals I have to read, weather maps, lots of things I have to interpret,” he said. “Without a good education and the ability to read, it would be hard to find a good job.”

“Is it fun?” Kelsey Hackworth asked.

“Yes,” Heighton replied. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

While Heighton’s and Neighborgall’s jobs may be considered hands-on, deputy Randy Rogers’ duties may be considered, well, paws-on. He is the K-9 handler for the sheriff’s office. Rogers and School Resource Officer VanKeuren explained how reading is important in their line of work. Rogers then demonstrated the abilities of Max, the Belgian Malinois, who joined the sheriff’s office last summer. Rogers demonstrated how Max is able to find hidden stashes of illegal drugs, for which he is rewarded with a plastic pipe that the dog has adopted as his favorite toy. They emphasized that training, for a human, required the ability to read. Without the essential skill, Rogers pointed out it is impossible to wind up the proverbial “top dog.”

“If you can’t read,” Rogers joked, “you’re the (dog) with the pipe.”