2015 Youth Achievement Award

At Smart Kids with LD we know that learning difficulties do not have to be a barrier to success; in fact, sometimes they motivate excellence. Each year we celebrate a group of bright, talented school-age kids, whose remarkable achievements remind us that children with LD can—and do—accomplish great things. Below is a list of this year’s Youth Achievement Award honorees, who will be feted at our annual gala on March 7, 2015 in Stamford, CT.

Fred J. Epstein Youth Achievement Award
Zachary Milestone, Skillman, NJ

Zachary lives by the motto, “Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; merely where you start.” His start included five years at the Cambridge School in NJ to address dyslexia and significant language difficulties. Now 17 and a junior at Montgomery High School in Montgomery Township, NJ, Zac excels in math, science, and Mandarin. He completed a course on infectious diseases and did summer lab work on Alzheimer’s research at Rutgers Medical School. Zac is also the 2015 pewter medalist in ice dancing for the US National Skating Association. He has taken ownership of both his education and his skating career by never giving up, always being prepared, and developing strong self-advocacy skills.

Special Recognition Award
Christopher Lancaster, Clarksville, TN

Currently a high school junior and 17-year-old honors student planning to earn an engineering degree in college, Chris still struggles every day with dyslexia and dysgraphia. He learned to spell his full name just last year. Chris notes that in addition to motivating him to work hard, dyslexia has taught him to be kind, and has fueled his determination to make a difference. He’s been honored by the governor of Tennessee for his outstanding dedication to community service, including his Eagle Scout project developing and building a bike trail for the Wounded Warrior Unit at Fort Campbell, KY.

Junior Achievement Award
Emma Isabella Pawl, Ashland, MA

Emma is a confident 11-year-old, who is a talented vocalist and actress as well as soccer and guitar player. Although she struggles every day with dyslexia, dyscalculia, apraxia of speech, and ADHD, she does not let her disabilities define or limit her. She perseveres, taking pleasure in the creative techniques she has used to learn to read and write. She believes she may be better prepared than others for life’s challenges because she is a different learner, and, like others who struggled with learning disabilities, she too can be amazing.

Honorable Mentions
Tim Bates, Asheville, NC

Tim finds that his passion for theater and music keep him going despite his struggles in school. Currently 16 and a junior at The Gow School for young men with dyslexia, he has loved being on stage since he was 3, and has performed in numerous plays and musicals. After studying with a conductor since the age of 13, he has spent recent summers conducting both pick-up choirs and professional musicians—an experience he describes as magical.

Megan Connolly, Stamford, CT

The minute she stepped on the ice, Megan’s troubles with dyslexia disappeared. “I felt invincible,” she says. “It was like learning to fly.” Through endless hours at the ice rink, she’s learned self-discipline, which she’s applied also to her schoolwork. The medals she’s earned in state, regional and national competitions and skating for charity, including a gold medal at the North Atlantic Regional Championships, have helped her overcome shyness to become a straight-A student at The Harvey School. Megan is looking forward to attending Syracuse University next fall.

Sean Zyvoloski,  Sauk Rapids, MN

Sean draws strength from facing the challenges of his ADHD, dyslexia, and dysgraphia, and in taking part in something bigger than himself. He is a three-sport athlete, achieving letters in varsity football, weightlifting, and baseball as well as serving as captain of the football team. Sean is also committed to community service, volunteering as a tutor for elementary-school children, a coach for summer football camps, a participant for Kids Fighting Against Hunger, and an organizer for the area’s first library for Somalian immigrants.