RiSE Scholarship Foundation: Recognizing Students with Learning Disabilities
- Publish Date: 2012/09/19 - (Rev. 2016/06/12)
- Author: Wendy Taormina-Weiss
Outline: RiSE Scholarship Foundation is a non-profit foundation serving as a resource for high school students with the goal of rewarding students with learning disabilities through scholarships.
The RiSE Scholarship Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit foundation serving as a resource for high school students with forms of learning disabilities. RiSE provides high school students across the nation with the opportunity to be selected for a national scholarship each year. The mission of RiSE is to reward students with learning disabilities who have demonstrated self-advocacy, determination, and success in overcoming the difficulties they experience and are pursuing post-secondary education.
Learning Disabilities - Learning disabilities are disorders that affect the ability to understand or use spoken or written language, do mathematical calculations, coordinate movements, or direct attention. Although learning disabilities occur in very young children, the disorders are usually not recognized until the child reaches school age. Research shows that 8 to 10 percent of American children under 18 years of age have some type of learning disability. Learning disabilities can be lifelong conditions. In some people, several overlapping learning disabilities may be apparent. Other people may have a single, isolated learning problem that has little impact on their lives.
Scholarship - A scholarship is a financial aid that aims to help students with their living costs and therefore varies in amount depending on the student's status.
RiSE was established in the year 2010 with the goal of rewarding students with learning disabilities through scholarships. The Foundation works to offer scholarships that are meaningful to award the success of students while raising awareness and educating others about the subject of learning disabilities. RiSE is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501 (c) (3) organization. The RiSE Scholarship Foundation pursues fundraising efforts and works with schools, educators, and parents to present rewards to students who experience identifiable, diagnosed forms of learning disabilities who have used the strengths they posses and their determination to rise above their differences.
Taylor Heffner, Winner of the Georgia 2011 RiSE Scholarship Foundation Award
The accomplishments of Taylor Heffner, winner of the Georgia 2011 RiSE Scholarship Foundation award, are very impressive. Taylor maintained a high grade point average at the Howard School while participating in track and field, playing varsity soccer, and organizing volunteers at school for Habitat for Humanity. He also volunteered for a number of Atlanta area service projects such as:
- Trinity Soup Kitchen
- Open Door Community
- Atlanta Humane Society
- Atlanta Community Food Bank
Taylor is now attending Andrew College, and his positive attitude concerning his learning disability has enabled him to excel. He wants other students with learning disabilities to know that the most important thing to remembers is that it is simply about the way you learn. Taylor says, "You still learn, and you are just as smart and capable as everyone else, plus you will find that you have a lot more common sense and problem-solving abilities than most people."
When asked about his greatest struggles as he was growing up and the toughest challenges he faced in the classroom, Taylor gave some very honest answers. He said his biggest struggle both in and out of the classroom was understanding the things that were being explained or taught to him. He quickly understood that with certain things he needed a large amount of repetition so he could fully grasp the concepts being presented. Taylor had to ask for multiple explanations so he could hear them in different terms and make practical connections. Taylor stated, "Because I didn't want to feel different from my peers, who understood on the first go round, it took a while to become comfortable and realize that it is ok to ask questions."
Taylor was in kindergarten when his mother recognized that he was learning at a different pace from the other children in his class. His teacher reassured his mother that over time he would catch up, but Taylor's mother was not comfortable with the teacher's response. She began doing her own research instead.
As Taylor looks back on his early childhood, his earliest memory of struggling in school was during his first months of first grade. He did not like going to school and would wake up in the middle of the night on school nights not feeling well and crying about not having to go to school. He was not able to fully articulate what was going on at the time, although he knew he hated it. Fortunately, Taylor had a very caring speech teacher who had seen and heard the way his regular teacher interacted with him. His speech teacher contacted his mother, who promptly met with the principal and pulled him out of public school entirely.
In regards to this point in his life Taylor said, "I went back to kindergarten at our church preschool and kindergarten where my mom was the director. I loved it there and started to enjoy school again. This gave mom a chance to continue researching learning differences and to find a school that would better fit my needs."
Despite the efforts of Taylor's mother, his teachers, the principal, and most importantly Taylor himself - he still struggled to keep up academically. He would come home from school and work on his homework and study for tests for hours every day. He did well, although it was difficult, frustrating, and time consuming. Taylor's mother realized that he needed more specialized assistance where he could learn about the ways he learned so he could be successful in the future. They found The Howard School.
While Taylor was at The Howard School, his teachers pursued particular teaching methods and interventions that helped to accommodate his particular learning style. The school taught him how he learns best, and Taylor learned that the more he can use his senses, the easier it is for him to comprehend things. Taylor recorded his classes on his computer as he took notes so he had the ability to go back and listen as he read. He also discovered that he retained more if he physically manipulated the materials around. He would print information, move it, and match things up. Taylor said, "When I was in elementary school I would practice spelling using shaving cream on the shower door, or in a sand table. It was fun and actually let me touch what I was doing."
When asked if he felt prepared to attend college, Taylor stated that he felt totally prepared. He is aware that it will be a large transition as far as the workload, the expectations placed upon him, as well as being away from home - yet he feels he has all of the skills he needs to make it work. He understands that he will have to study harder than the majority of his classmates while continuing to find ways to make difficult classes more understandable. Taylor said, "I have learned that perseverance pays off. I have learned that most worthwhile things in life do not come easy; you have to work at them. Because of Howard I have the confidence to advocate for myself and understand how important it is to do that."
Taylor has some advice for students with learning disabilities who are struggling in school. He says it is not the end of the world; it is actually a new beginning of learning how you learn. He says there are many people who are successful out there who also have a form of learning disability and you will be one of them as well. Taylor says the most important thing to remember is that it is simply about the way you learn. Taylor says, "You still learn, and you are just as smart and capable as everyone else, plus you will find that you have a lot more common sense and problem-solving abilities than most people." He has some other suggestions as well:
- There are many assistive technology resources available now to help you with schoolwork like computers and special software programs.
- It is important to build strong relationships at school with your teachers. They want you to succeed and will help you to figure out how to do just that, if you show them that you are willing to work hard.
- Perseverance is a word that you will learn, and it will stick with you all of your life. Sometimes you will find that no matter how hard you study and prepare for a class, you just don't get the results you wanted, but the ability to shrug it off and keep going despite the challenges will take you far in everything you do.
- Another valuable resource is your parents. I have been lucky to have extremely supportive parents to help, encourage, and guide me through the years. Parents are always on your side, and remember, they know you better than anyone. They can help you learn different ways to study. For me, the more hands on the better.
At this point in his life, Taylor defines success as being healthy, happy, being loved and loving back while sharing his talents with others on his way to a positive college experience.
The mission of The Rise Scholarship Foundation, Inc. is to recognize and reward students with learning disabilities that have overcome learning challenges, achieved academic success in their formative school years and will continue their educational journey by pursuing an undergraduate degree at a college or university.