Dyslexia Scholarship Winner Tells Her Story

August 8, 2013 by Geoff Nixon

In August 2012, Gemm Learning announced its first Dyslexia Scholarship competition to be conducted for the spring and fall semesters of 2013. Entrants were to write an essay on how they overcame dyslexia, and the winner would receive a $1,000 scholarship for college tuition.

The entrants exceeded our expectations with their stories. Below is soon-to-be college freshman Lacy Stephen’s winning essay. Read the encouraging story of her experience with dyslexia.

The End of Big Bug Dug

by Lacy Stephens

 The colorful caterpillars crawled along the back wall of the classroom. The caterpillars were made from hand colored bookmarks adorned with a student’s name and the name of the book that was read. In third grade at my school, a great deal of status came from having the longest caterpillar. No one bragged, but everyone knew who was the best reader, and, unfortunately for me, who was the worst. I would stare at the caterpillars made from fifteen bookmarks, knowing that my fellow classmates were able to get through at least one chapter book a week. My puny caterpillar was less than five bookmarks. My teacher had just informed me that I had to read chapter books if I wanted to put up any more bookmarks. No more Big Bug Dug for me. I didn’t know how to read chapter books. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. I would have a better chance of building a Lego bridge to the moon than reading a chapter book. This was impossible, or so I thought.

This was the year that my mother told me there was a reason for my struggle. I had dyslexia. It is hard to say that I have overcome my dyslexia because it is with me still every day of my life; however, with support from many wonderful people over the years, I have learned how to use my strengths and implement strategies to minimize the difficulties it has caused me. I have gone from a person confused about how to decode simple words to a person who is doing well in my advanced placement English class and looking forward to doing well in college.

When I think about my journey, there are many reasons for my success. I always loved being read to; however, I had several tutors who really made a difference in teaching me the complexity of deciphering the written word. I felt that they wanted me to succeed, and that faith in me made me want to succeed as well. I knew that learning to read needed to be one step at a time, although they were often baby steps or even a step backward. My first tutor used creative ideas.  To ease my stress, she let me hold her pet hamster to engage me in the act of learning to read. She provided the first chapter book that I ever read, Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng. That single act made it seem possible for me to succeed. I learned over time how to circumvent some of my difficulties. Audio books helped, and I went through all of the children and young adult audio books in the local town library. To this day, I proudly possess five library cards. My dyslexia can still be seen in my difficulty with spelling some visually similar words, like propriety and property, but spellchecker helps, and now I can actually read the word choices and select the right one.

If you’re a college student with dyslexia like Lacy, you have a story to tell, too. Gemm Learning has renewed its scholarship competition for the 2014 spring and fall semesters. Check out the requirements to enter. Or share your experiences in the comments below. We want to hear your story.