April 22, 2015. National Center for Learning Disabilities Annual Fundraiser Dinner. Mandarin Oriental, NYC. Photography by Margarita Corporan

2015 Anne Ford Scholarship Winner

Written by Savannah Trevina-Casias | April 27, 2015

Savannah is a graduating high school senior who will attend Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University in the fall. Savannah was diagnosed with dyscalculia in the sixth grade and has faced many challenges on her journey to college.

Savannah Trevina-Casias – Personal Statement

Most people think of learning disabilities as just that: a disability that defines someone’s intellectual identity. But I am confident, positive, and dedicated despite my learning disability. It took a many years, however, before I found acceptance in myself and my abilities.

My difficulties in academics were not unexpected. I was born four months early and spent the first weeks of my life in neonatal intensive care. The doctors said I would have difficulties developing at the same pace as other children. Their words proved true: I am much smaller than my peers and I have a learning disability. One of my earliest memories is of crying in frustration because math made no sense to me. The numbers were a foreign language and confused me to no end. No matter how hard I tried I could not understand. I sought help from many different tutoring companies, none of which worked. My struggles only worsened as time went on. At first, I questioned my ability to learn at all and resented school. I thought that there was no possible way that I could catch up and be at the same level as my fellow students. Despite my frustration, my mom worked hard over the years to teach me to succeed. As a special education teacher, she emphasized the importance of hard work and introduced me to special education services. She encouraged me to see my struggles as something to accept and accommodate, rather than avoid.

Over time, I began to internalize my mom’s encouragement. We found a high school that suited my needs and I was one of the pioneers at Arizona’s first public all girls high school. I began to love school and accepted the necessity of special education services for my learning disability. I gained a new found confidence in myself and put immense effort into my education. Slowly, I became the person I always wanted to be: smart, hardworking, dedicated, excited, and outgoing. Special education was not a bad thing, neither was my learning disability. I embraced the assistance and I realized that I was capable of being a top student.

There are still times when I get frustrated with math but then I remember how far I have come.It was not an easy road to get to where I am at now but it was all worth it. I understand my disability and I understand when I need help. I can raise my hand in class and not be afraid to ask questions in front of my peers. I am my own advocate, I know my strengths and weaknesses, I know I can achieve anything I put my mind to no matter my disability.

Then, two years ago, my mom died unexpectedly. My whole world was shaken. I lost my biggest supporter, in academics and in life; learning to cope is a huge ongoing struggle. But one thought kept me going: I needed to strive toward the dream my mom and I shared. So I did.

My struggle with math and my learning disability are still daily battles, but over the years I have improved tremendously. I remember receiving a B in my sophomore geometry class and that was a huge step for me. It made me realize that I can have good grades and I can understand the material. I have received A’s on math tests and math final exams, and I am able to sit down and do my math homework without tears or anxiety. Now in my senior year, I am taking AP Statistics which is one of the hardest math classes that my school offers, and I can keep up with the other students and get my work done.

Recently, I was re-evaluated for special education services. I improved so much that my learning disability was declared minimal. They said that my achievement was rare and astonishing. Once, I would have jumped at the opportunity to test out of special education. But now, I know that the extra services will help me succeed and that my learning disability will not define me or stop me from achieving my goals. My learning disability is a part of who I am and I have accepted that.

I will not give up on my dreams of succeeding, just as my mom never gave up on me. I will live my life to show others that I am a capable student despite my learning disability: I am intelligent, positive and confident, and I will embrace everything college offers to make my future brighter. I will go through the rest of my life with my learning disability not as a crutch but as a motivation to succeed.

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