Smart Kids with LD Youth Achievement Award Winner Calls Dyslexia Her “Secret Weapon”
Melissa Rey of Chesterfield, MO, already a Top Young Scientist award winner and seasoned educator at the age of 16, has won the 2010 Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities Youth Achievement Award. The award recognizes the outstanding accomplishments of students 19 or younger who have learning disabilities and/or ADHD. Selected from over 150 entrants in the nationwide contest conducted annually by Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities, Melissa was identified with dyslexia (a reading disability) in first grade. She accepted the $1,000 award at the nonprofit organization’s 10th Anniversary Benefit at the Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, CT, where she confided, “taking the jumbled letters dancing in my brain and rearranging them into the patterns of words and sentences has been the greatest challenge I have faced.”
A sophomore at Kennedy High School in Manchester, MO, Melissa spent three years shuttling from her regular classroom to the school’s reading specialist, often arriving in tears, as she struggled with the task of learning to read. Learning to break down the process of reading into a series of simple, manageable tasks, she also gained the self-discipline, confidence, and poise that allowed her to triumph over competitors from across the country in the 2008 Discovery Channel 3M Top Young Scientist Challenge. Named one of three finalists after two days of grueling competition at the NASA Goddard Space Center, she performed a science experiment for an audience of 300 people after just five minutes of preparation, while the other finalists wilted under the pressure.
Accepting the award, Melissa told the audience, “When I succeeded in learning how to read, I discovered my secret weapon.” Today, thanks to winning the Discovery Channel’s Top Young Scientist award, she is on a mission to educate other kids about the wonders of science. She conducts webinars for middle-school students across the country, teaching them not only that “science is everywhere, and yes, it is also very cool,” but also that enthusiasm, dedication and an organized approach can help them to overcome any obstacle. In answering their questions, she says, “I often begin by telling them that I have dyslexia and it has taught me that I can face any challenge and win. If I can win, so can they. All they need to do is to discover their own secret weapon.” Read her story at http://www.smartkidswithld.org/success-stories/youth-award-winners/melissa-rey-2010-youth-achievement-award-winner
2010 Junior Achievement Award
William King Barnett, 14, of Encino, CA, an 8th-grader at Bridges Academy for twice-exceptional (gifted and learning-disabled) students in Studio City, CA was named the winner of the 2010 Junior Achievement Award, for outstanding accomplishments by a student with learning disabilities or ADHD not yet in high school. After struggling to learn to talk, to walk and to develop basic motor skills, William has pushed himself to accomplish goals beyond what anyone thought possible—becoming a proficient pianist, performing leading roles with the Golden Performing Arts Center, writing movie scripts, and composing music.
Honorable Mention winners include:
Gregory Bayliss, 18, of Greenwich, CT, honored for his determination in overcoming a reading disability and ADHD to win recognition both in academics and athletics at the Taft School in Watertown, CT, where he is a senior.
Emily Cassidy, 18, of Westlake, TX for her innovative community service, creating a clothing boutique serving 300+ teen girls in foster care in northern Texas, recognized with a Gold US Congressional Award. She is a senior at Faith Christian School in Westlake.
Ina Herlihy, 17, a senior at Convent of the Sacred Heart High School in San Francisco, CA for her work as a political journalist and photographer, including covering President Obama’s inauguration as the only high-school student with full press credentials. Her photography may be seen at www.InaHerlihy.com.
Alex Lake, 19, of Roswell, GA, a freshman at Elon University in North Carolina, for conquering a reading disability and ADHD to become a Presidential Scholar, Elon’s Challenge Course Student Director, community volunteer, and Business Fellows Program member.
William Pendleton, 18, of Lawrence, KS, a freshman at Kansas State University, for using the challenge of his disabilities as a springboard to success in academics, music, track, and the creation of an award-winning butterfly habitat—teaching the lessons he has learned to other students.
Ben Waldow, 17, of Beverly Hills, CA for continuing to draw in class to manage his ADHD, despite his teachers’ disapproval. Now a senior at Beverly Hills High School, Ben launched a career in art, inadvertently, by decorating tennis shoes, as well as everything else, with his doodles, and has become a mentor to other students, a minor celebrity at school, and an effective fundraiser through his talent as an artist.