Imagine taking three times as long to do homework than your classmates; reading the same word over again or forgetting all those flash cards you memorized.
Emily Mincin, a sophomore studying Special Education from Sammamish, Washington, has dyslexia, slow processing, short-term memory, recall and auditory processing. In high school, she was told that she was going to have to attend a school after high school specifically for students with learning disabilities. The achievement of being a successful student at Gonzaga is a testament to her hard work and determination.
Emily, Westin Staab, Rachel Best and Rebecca Camela are part of Eye to Eye as mentors and have used their disabilities to inspire younger students to embrace their differences and encourage them to attend college.
Eye to Eye is the only national movement that pairs kids who have learning disabilities with college students who have the same disability. With their art-based curriculum, mentors help middle schoolers embrace their self-esteem and build skills as different thinkers. It’s a mentoring program where Emily has found a community that supports and understands her.
Eye to Eye is about giving back to other generations and giving a helping hand to younger students who struggle in math and reading. With their art projects, the middle school students are able to express themselves in a different way and discover self-confidence.
Emily sees her disabilities as a tool that has made her stronger and ready to tackle any hardships that come her way.
“I have to spend a lot more time on assignments, essays, and studying, but in the end it makes me a stronger person,” Emily said.
Statistics show that students with disabilities are less likely than their peers to attend any college- 55 percent compared to 62 percent. Emily along with other students like Weston, Rachel and Rebecca have persevered with their learning disabilities to make it to Gonzaga. It’s not easy for students with learning disabilities to get the ACT or SAT scores that Gonzaga requires their students to earn.
“I was told by Gonzaga admissions that I would not be able to get into Gonzaga with my ACT scores. I worked my ‘butt’ off during my senior year to get my scores up… and here I am!” Emily said. “It is not always easy, but I know I can achieve anything I want to.”
Being part of the Eye to Eye has made Emily, Weston, Rachel and Rebecca more confident about what they can achieve in life with learning disability. Eye to Eye has created opportunities for them to proudly talk about their disabilities and participate in training for creating a welcoming environment for the Middle Schoolers to feel comfortable to share about their own struggles.
“I am very open about talking about my learning disability,” said Emily.
Another program that Gonzaga offers for students with disabilities is DREAM. DREAM stands for disability resources, education, and access management. They are dedicated to facilitating a welcoming and equal opportunity environment for people with disabilities.
“I specifically came to Gonzaga because of the support that the DREAM Office had to offer me as a student coming to college with a learning disability,” said Emily.
Some accommodations that Emily uses through the DREAM Office is extended time, audiobooks, a note-taker, and the ability to record lectures. “I look at my accommodations as a way of putting myself at an equal level of play as all my other classmates,” said Emily.
Student learning disabilities and other disabilities should be proud to go to Gonzaga and feel supported by the different programs offered to them. Everyone is born in a different situation, its how we deal with those situations that make us stronger.
“Having a learning disability doesn’t make you any less smart. The only difference is that our brains are wired differently,” said Emily.