Learning Ally Blog: Access and Achievement

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Now more than ever, people with learning and visual disabilities are flourishing in the classroom, launching productive careers and becoming assets in their communities. This blog spotlights remarkable individuals who demonstrate that having a visual or print disability is no barrier to educational success.


A Dyslexic American Teen in Jerusalem, Bound for Yale University
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Eddie Maza displaysone of his favorite works of literature in both print and audio format.
  Eddie Maza displays one of his favorite works of literature in both print and audio format.
From an early age, Eddie Maza struggled in school, particularly with reading and writing. Diagnostic testing in the third grade confirmed that he had dyslexia. “Learning that I had a disability made me feel damaged and isolated,” he recalls. “I'll never forget the feeling that there was something wrong with my brain, that I was broken. But I was determined to overcome my challenges. I had to work twice as hard as everyone else to get half as far.” Maza remembers that homework took him hours, while his friends finished in a few minutes. Through sheer effort and persistence, he was able to catch up with his classmates and excel in math and science, even graduating as the valedictorian of his middle school. His serious struggles with reading, however, lasted well into high school. “Every day I would walk into English with my head down hoping the class would go by without my teacher calling on me to read aloud,” he says. A turning point came when he began using audiobooks from Learning Ally. “It completely changed my life," he says. "Reading that seemed totally daunting before became enjoyable, and I gained confidence, finally able to keep up with class assignments.”
Maza reads using the Learning Ally Audio app with synchronized VOICEText on his iPhone.
Reading with the Learning Ally Audio app (with synchronized VOICEtext) on his iPhone

Having fully embraced his dyslexia, Maza now considers it as a major life asset and has shined in academics and extracurricular activities, graduating high school with a 4.0 GPA. In February 2013, he was recognized by the White House for his leadership role in developing a Teen Leadership Conference that brought diverse students to work together on social issues facing all teens, including eating disorders, teen pregnancy and more. Now at age 19, he is spending an exciting year studying abroad in Jerusalem, Israel; and he plans to start his freshman college year in 2014 pursuing American Studies at Yale University.

EddieM5Learning Ally is proud to announce that Eddie Maza, his mother Stacy, and his 10th grade teacher/continuing friend and mentor Tikvah Weiner (pictured with Eddie at right) will attend our Gala celebration in Washington, DC this April, where he and several other outstanding students will be honored with National Achievement Awards. We visited him at home in New Jersey -- where he was visiting on break from his studies in Jerusalem -- to shoot a video story that will be shared when the NAA events kick off on April 25.

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Above - one of several books Eddie Maza is reading for his rigorous religious studies in Jerusalem. Since it is not available in audiobook format, he has filled it with dozens of color-coded page tab markers; and almost every individual page is covered with inscriptions and underlines -- all part of a unique creative system he has developed over the years as a dyslexic student laboring to read books in printed format.

You can read more about Eddie Maza here and listen to the great essay he wrote as part of his application for the National Achievement Awards.  FYI, applications for next year's awards are being taken until 3/10/14.




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