Every spring at our annual “The Sky’s The Limit” gala, Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities® recognizes students from all over the country who have achieved great success despite their learning challenges. As you’ll see from this year’s Youth Achievement Award honorees, these young people have already accomplished amazing things, leaving an indelible mark on their schools and communities. For sheer inspiration, it doesn’t get any better than these smart kids with LD, many of whom are poised to go on to even bigger and better achievements in college and workplaces across America.
2014 Fred J. Epstein Youth Achievement Award
Alexandra Sheridan, Marcellus, NY
Alex is the embodiment of her belief that every individual matters and can make a difference in this world. She is making a difference as a Youth Ambassador for the UN, and representative of Dr. Jane Goodall’s non-profit organization, Roots & Shoots. Alex’s out-of- the-box thinking and humble confidence have made her successful as an experiential counselor, award-winning artist, and performing artist despite her struggles with dyslexia, ADHD, and dysgraphia.
2014 Special Recognition Award
Brian Meersma, Princeton Junction, NJ
While addressing the challenges of his own dyslexia, Brian was motivated to help others as well. Through his involvement with the nonprofit organization, Bookshare and driven by his passion for technology, Brian created a blog reviewing new technologies that assist people with disabilities. Wanting to do more to ensure successful policies for students with disabilities, Brian became involved with a campaign that resulted in enacting three bills related to dyslexia in New Jersey.
Junior Achievement Award
Blake Resnick, Las Vegas, NV
At the age of 13, Blake has learned to embrace his dyslexia and to excel despite his challenges. As he finished middle school, Blake was inducted into the National Honor Society and was chosen to deliver the commencement speech. Blake’s proudest moment was winning the Southern Nevada Future City Competition for which he developed, designed, and built a city of the future.
Honorable Mention Winners
Kathryn Lela Bolt, Houston, TX
Kathryn did not let her struggles with learning disabilities and epilepsy stand in her way. She was motivated to achieve academic excellence, and to become an accomplished artist and ballerina. Kathryn inspired others by her years of service with Girl Scouts and the National Charity League, in addition to her outreach service in various countries including Costa Rica, Panama, and the US Virgin Islands. She also designed and painted a mural in the Texas Children’s Hospital, where she had spent many hours as a patient.
Austin Lawrence, Kensington, CT
Austin found that pedaling forward in spite of the challenges he faced with dyslexia helped him to master academics—and so much more. In addition to being inducted into the National Honor Society, Austin has placed first or second in many bike races, and holds the Silver Medal in the 2013 CT State Mountain Bike Race. He has been accepted to Central Connecticut State University, where he hopes to become a K-12 Technology Education Teacher.
Amanda McLeod, Sewickley, PA
Instead of using dyslexia as an excuse, Amanda uses her disability as motivation to succeed in school and anything else she wants to accomplish. Now 18 and a High Honor Roll student, she is the president of her school’s Gay Straight Alliance and the Jewish Culture Club, and has volunteered to help at-risk foster children in Israel. Amanda will attend the University of Michigan and plans to study cognitive behavior and development to help other children with learning disabilities.
Thomas Reed, Stallings, NC
Thomas is an out-of-the-box thinker whose interests and activities have led to achievements well beyond his school and hometown. A member of the National Honor Society at Porter Ridge High School, Thomas is an accomplished artist and a senior contributor to Creative Kids Magazine. His love of science and the outdoors led to volunteering at the local Reptile Zoo, starting his own reptile breeding business, and communicating with people around the world who share his passion for herpetology. Thomas’s commitment to community service and to sharing his knowledge with others have helped him overcome the challenges posed by dyslexia.
Success Stories • Youth Achievement Award Winners