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A Matter of the Mind

special-needs-stories-brain-mazeThe importance of diversity, especially in the student body, is crucial to the development of an individual. Diversity offers a type of education that one may not receive from a textbook. The misconception of diversity is that it solely deals with race. Though this connection is true, there are seven other types of diversity that are often overlooked, but remain just as important: ability, age, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic class. My ability to learn differs from the "normal," so I am labeled as dyslexic. Some may consider dyslexia a disability, but I consider it one of my strengths.
Jasmine Niernberger, Miss DC Teen USA 2006, treats her learning disability is an "obstacle, but not a road block." Jasmine has taken strides toward overcoming her dyslexia, and is an active advocate for other individuals with LD, serving as spokesperson for Reading for the Blind & Dyslexic.
In elementary school, I did not understand why reading was such a painful process. As a result, I quickly learned to hate reading. To overcome long nights of homework, I would ask my mom to read to me. However, when I got older, this was not practical. Although I had tutors that helped me with reading skills (particularly practicing phonics), reading was not getting easier. Once I was officially diagnosed with dyslexia in middle school, I had a tutor for one year who specialized in phonological awareness. However, I was unable to continue due to lack of time and financial restraints. Through middle school, I despised reading — I dreaded reading in class, struggled with homework reading assignments and never read for fun. I eventually realized that I could not slide through life as a weak reader. At the beginning of high school I was referred to the Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D), allowing me to receive my textbooks on CD. This audio format has helped my grades, my time management skills, and enabled me to somewhat enjoy books. Currently all my books, including textbooks, are audio books (CDs or tapes), and I receive accommodations for testing, such as extra time and a reader on the SATs.

A learning disability as an obstacle, but not a road block. It is one more problem to overcome and one more difficulty to make me a stronger person. Although my learning differences still present a daily challenge, I refuse to let anything stand in the way of my success. As a child my mom always told me, "You can do anything you set your mind to." This advice has been a motto in which I live my life. It is the way in which one faces a challenge that allows for growth. So do not pity others for their obstacles, pity those who do not have them, for they remain stunted in growth. I believe it is important that one turns weaknesses into strengths. I like to ask, "What can my weakness do for me?" Therefore, as a result of being crowned Miss DC Teen USA 2006 and of my academic achievement, I became RFB&D's "little celebrity." Being a spokesperson for their promotional campaign is a wonderful opportunity. Most recently, I recorded several radio spots, which was such an exciting process. In the future I hope to work as a spokesperson for a large organization and therefore being the face of this campaign is a great experience. The way in which I approach my learning disability tells a lot about who I am and how I live my life.

College is not an option, but a necessary opportunity to learn and grow. There has never been a doubt in my mind that I will attend college. As it is commonly stated, "if there is a will, there is a way." My steadfast determination has served me well throughout my high school years, and I am sure it will keep me focused in college. For me, I believe college is a step toward achieving greatness. With my success, I hope to inspire others to believe in themselves, especially if they too have a learning disability.