2017 Anne Ford Scholarship Winner

Written by Marcos Allen | 2 months ago

By the time I reached middle school the only thing I got compliments for was my doodling, not my hard work. And my homework routine was pretty unconventional: do 3 math problems followed by 10 push-ups, repeat as needed. It was my strategy for dealing with my LD and ADHD.

Marcos was the fun-loving preschooler who never stopped moving, who was described by everyone as curious and engaging –a “bright light in the room.” Oh, and he was also known as the smart student who couldn’t read. By fourth grade, when his challenges in literacy, math and attention were officially identified, his teacher announced that Marcos might never learn how to read or write. That’s when his mom, a librarian and soon-to-be homeschooler, leapt into action. With the flexibility to shape personalized learning opportunities for Marcos and help him explore content in creative ways, Marcos not only caught up to his peers but also gained a deep understanding of his unique learning needs. His love for drawing led him to volunteer in an art program, and “Mr. Marcos” quickly became the children’s favorite teacher and role model. Marcos can hardly wait to begin his undergraduate studies in art and education.

Marcos Allen – Personal Statement

My name is Marcos Julian Allen. I consider myself one of the lucky few dyslexics. Shortly after I was diagnosed with dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADHD and with a high IQ in 4th grade, my parents decided to take me out of public school. My mom shared with me that one of my public school teachers told her to prepare herself with the fact that I may never learn how to read or write. She refused to believe this and didn’t allow me to give in to self-pity. Both my parents have always believed in me and have encouraged me to pursue my many interests. They were dedicated in getting me whatever support I needed to learn at my intellectual level while I worked hard at developing certain skills that were difficult for me. In retrospect, I believe that a homeschool environment offered quite a bit of flexibility, which allowed me to learn at my pace and helped me to progress well. I had many opportunities to incorporate alternative ways to learn, learn from adults and peers in the community and acquire new skills to adapt to meet my needs.

I had the best Orton Gillingham reading/spelling instructor in Wisconsin and I worked with her for five years, all year round. Although I have had to overcome big obstacles, my learning differences are a constant in my life. I have had to learn alternative ways to get the necessary knowledge and to complete my work. I still get frustrated at times knowing that it takes me longer to complete assignments than the average person but I work on not dwelling on it too long. I now read at grade level but get tired easily so I have access to my textbooks in audio form. This allows me to listen to the material and get my homework done. I write at grade level but use Dragon NaturallySpeaking when needed. I also use the Internet, videos, documentaries, and audiobooks. When I have difficulty concentrating and focusing for an extended time, I use different techniques to get back on task as soon as possible. I believe our family values and the need to push through my learning differences have taught me to be creative, to persevere, and to reach deep inside and not let anything hold me back from attaining my goals. These are values that I apply in all areas of my life. For example, as captain of the Camp Randall Junior Varsity Rowing team, I encourage in my teammates to not spend time worrying about their one bad performance but to pick themselves up, learn from that experience and then use that knowledge to do better the next time.

We were very active in the dyslexia community from 2008 to 2011. My mom was active in a local dyslexia support group and in WIBIDA – the Wisconsin Branch of International Dyslexia Association. My sister, who is also dyslexic, joined my mom and me in becoming spokespeople on living with dyslexia. My mom worked with WIBIDA members and Rep. Keith Ripp to write a bill to help dyslexics in public schools. Unfortunately this bill did not pass into law. We went to the Capitol to speak with state representatives and Governor Doyle about how the Orton Gillingham reading method helped us learn how to read. We were photographed with Governor Doyle and Rep. Keith Ripp and his family at the Wisconsin Dyslexia Awareness Proclamation signing on October 21, 2009. We participated in dyslexia awareness 5K fundraisers, workshops, lectures, etc. but stopped in 2011 because of school and sports activities.

My father, a Jamaican immigrant, is the first in his family to receive a bachelor’s degree. My mom & her sister are the first in their family (first generation Americans of parents from Latin America) to complete college and get master’s degrees. So, growing up, I always knew that college was expected of me. Although I currently do not participate in dyslexia advocacy like I did in the past, I hope to have opportunities while in college and throughout my career. I am interested in applying to the following schools; University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Beacon College, Edgewood College and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Both UW-Oshkosh and Beacon College offer unique programs that help dyslexics succeed in college. I believe if I attend either of these schools, I will benefit from learning alongside other dyslexics and hope to form some type of advocacy group. I am currently undecided but am considering a bachelor’s degree in art and education. If I do pursue this career, I can see myself helping dyslexic students while working at a school.

It would be a great honor to follow the steps of other dyslexics before me.

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