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.


Summer Reading Recommendations Part 2: College Success Program Mentors
Close up of books on shelves in a library

July 2, 2020 by Katie Ottaggio

Compiled by: Kristen Witucki, College Success Program Curriculum and Content Editor

The College Success Program has put together a summer reading list so we could encourage our students and each other to gravitate toward good books we've either read or plan to read. I've recently learned about enough great books to start a blog series! I have to admit that hearing about the many recommended books leads me to feeling almost frozen by the thought of all the books I might not get to! We hope these book lists will help give you a sense of who we are and our program, and also offer some reading entertainment for everyone! Part 2 of our series offers recommendations from seven of our mentors. Read Part 1 here.

Please note: These books are not necessarily available in the Learning Ally catalog.
 

Maureen Hayden, CSP Mentor

No Impact Man by Colin Beaven
It's a bit outdated now, but for any environmentally minded students this book documents the author and his family as they live waste free in New York City for a whole year. This means no travel, no public transportation, no packaged foods, no electricity, and even no toilet paper.

 

Emily Vasile, CSP Mentor

Some of the books I plan on reading this summer are:
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Yoga for Better Sleep: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Science by Mark Stephens
Conjure Women by Aria Atakora

 

Bryan Duarte, CSP Mentor

I am not sure if my preferred genre, horror, is good for all, but I just finished:
Devoted by Dean Koontz

I am currently reading:
If It Bleeds by Stephen King
Seize The Night by Dean Koontz
Surprise Kill Vanish by Annie Jacobsen

 

Sam Van Der Swaagh, CSP Mentor

I am currently reading:
Dune by Frank Herbert
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
World War Z by Max Brooks

Yes, they are all very relevant to what is going on with COVID-19, Black Lives Matter and SpaceX.
 

Miso Kwak, CSP Mentor

I have read:
The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food by Jennifer Lee

I am currently reading:
About Us: Essays from the Disability Series of the New York Times

I plan to read:
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

And, I also second Mary Alexander's recommendation of Between the World and Me from Part 1 of this blog series!
 

Megan Dausch, CSP Mentor

I am currently reading:
The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett

A few books I've enjoyed in the past year or more include:
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

 

Caitlin Mongillo, CSP Mentor

I fully second Where the Crawdads Sing for it's beautiful depictions of scenery and Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine for those of us who feel like they never fit in to "normal" society.

I also recommend:
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas for its relevance to what's currently going on regarding racial injustice;
The Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal by Jonathan Mooney as a poignant and funny look into disability culture;
and The Turn Of The Key by Ruth Ware as a good, solid summer mystery.

Looking for more reading inspiration? Check out Part 1 of this blog series or browse the Learning Ally Audiobooks. And check back in the coming weeks for Part 3 and Part 4!

 

Read More about Summer Reading Recommendations Part 2: College Success Program Mentors

College Knowledge Podcast - Episode 2: Mentorship: How Not to Reinvent the Wheel
College Knowledge by Learning Ally

June 24, 2020 by Katie Ottaggio

College Knowledge Podcast - Episode 2: Mentorship: How Not to Reinvent the Wheel

Being a college student with a visual impairment can be challenging but connecting to the College Success Program can help you make the most of this experience and succeed in reaching your goals. Join our mentors and cohosts, Bryan Duarte, Rachel Grider and Rashad Jones as they explore the academic, the professional, and the personal aspects of College Knowledge. If you are a college student who is blind or who has low vision, or you are curious about the world of college and visual impairment, this show is for you!

Episode 2: Mentorship: How Not to Reinvent the Wheel

In this episode, our hosts interview Abigail Shaw, Learning Ally's College Success Program Mentorship Coordinator. Learn about why she considers her role to be that of a platonic matchmaker and hear from College Success Program mentors and students about what mentorship through the program means to them.

You can also find it on iTunes by searching College Knowledge or click here. Be sure to leave us a rating or review!

Learn more about the College Success Program and sign up at learningally.org/CollegeSuccess.

Read More about College Knowledge Podcast - Episode 2: Mentorship: How Not to Reinvent the Wheel

Summer Reading Recommendations Part 1: College Success Program Staff
Hands reading braille

June 22, 2020 by Katie Ottaggio

Compiled by: Kristen Witucki, College Success Program Curriculum and Content Editor

The College Success Program has put together a summer reading list so we could encourage our students and each other to gravitate toward good books we've either read or plan to read. I've recently learned about enough great books to start a blog series and below is the first in the series! I have to admit that hearing about the many recommended books leads me to feeling almost frozen by the thought of all the books I might not get to! We hope these book lists will help give you a sense of who we are and our program, and also offer some reading entertainment for everyone! Part 1 of our series offers recommendations from many of the staff members who work the most closely with the College Success Program on a daily basis.

Please note: these books are not necessarily available in the Learning Ally catalog.
 

Mary Alexander, National Director, Program Initiatives for Students

The Best of Us by Karen Traviss
This is an early prequel on the Galaxy's Edge franchise. My son is a huge GE nut and convinced me to read this book because he knew I'd love it. It opened an entirely new universe for me as there are so many GE books. I've since read a couple of the others and while I'm not a huge fan of reading about various military engagements, there is enough character development that they are very interesting!

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
I found out about this book from my sister Becky. She is an attorney and shares my love of history, especially Great Britain during the time of WWII. I have not read this book but it's on my summer list!

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Given what has happened in the world I want to read something that makes me a better person. This book sounds like it might do that. I'm starting this very soon.


Katie Ottaggio, CSP Engagement Operations Manager

The Winemaker's Wife by Kristin Harmel
This was recommended to me by my mom and came on the heels of us both recently reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (another great read). I really enjoyed this book as it featured a part of WWII I wasn't familiar with - the French resistance. It's a great historical fiction with a little bit of mystery and romance.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
If you're a fan of tea, you'll appreciate how this book showcases its origins in China. It also explores a little known hill tribe and takes an interesting look at the differences in the tribe culture compared to the culture throughout the rest of the country, as well as the specific impact of the culture on women. I enjoyed this so much that I've added another title by this author - China Dolls - to my summer reading list.

American Fire: Love, Arson and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hessee
As a fan of true crime, I enjoyed this book as it took a deeper look at the "why" of the crime and takes you on a journey where you find yourself 100% against the perpetrator while still feeling sympathy towards them. For my true crime fan friends, I also recommend I'll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara.

 

Abigail Shaw, Production Coordinator and CSP Mentor Coordinator

Recommended titles I've read in the last six months:
Educated by Tara Westover
Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman

I'm currently reading Queening by Candice Carty-Williams.

Books I'm planning to read this summer:
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla Saad
Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice by activist Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Saarashinga

 

Kristen Witucki, CSP Curriculum and Content Editor

I have read:
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
At first a character who dies over and over again did not appeal to me. I literally abandoned the book. I probably only returned to it because the whole stop and restart ethos is very similar to my life as a mother of three children. Anyway, reading about how one decision could have such enormous ramifications was very profound. It can affect which side of a world conflict you end up on or whether you have individual agency in your life or not!

I am currently reading:
Arranged Marriage by Chitra Bannerjee Divakuruni
I decided short stories fit my attention span at the moment, but these characters are also engaging and full of resonance and warmth. One of the stories, "A Perfect Wife," really resonated with the ways my husband and I handled a completely different conflict.

I plan to read:
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
I am very, very, very late to the hype around this book. All of Tayari Jones's novels have been wonderful so far. The book shows the points of view of a married couple who must deal with the repercussions of living in the shadow of a crime the husband did not actually commit. I've dragged my feet on reading it, because I worry about police surveillance in a country in which my husband and sons live as African Americans. I think I've avoided many good books that way, if I've worried they will hit too close to home. But a group of colleagues at work have contributed to a Zoom channel called "A Place to Talk Books," (more about that in Part 3 of this blog series, so stay tuned!), and one of them reminded me why I should read it.

 

Tom Hetzel, Controller

Recommended books I've read:

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man's First Journey to the Moon by Robert Kurson

Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose
 

Looking for more reading inspiration? Browse the Learning Ally Audiobooks and check back in the coming weeks for Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of this blog series.
 

Read More about Summer Reading Recommendations Part 1: College Success Program Staff

"Education is a right, not a privilege", read our statement from Learning Ally CEO
Learning Ally CEO Andrew Friedman

June 19, 2020 by Learning Ally

The events over the past few weeks have given me and the Learning Ally staff pause for reflection. In line with our values, diversity and inclusion are a fundamental premise of everything we do. We have no tolerance for racism or discrimination of any kind.

We believe education plays an important role in stamping out racism and discrimination.. Over the past 70 years Learning Ally has had a consistent purpose, which is for all people to have an equal and equitable opportunity to learn and succeed. We continue to believe education is a RIGHT not a privilege. In today’s environment it is incredibly important we do better for our most vulnerable populations, including students of color, low socio-economic status, English Language Learners and those with physical and learning disabilities.

Our goal is apparent, not just in our words but the actions we take. We are committed to helping educators understand how students learn and equip them with the best instructional practices to meet their needs and the needs of their students, especially those who are chronically underserved, to improve literacy and learning outcomes. We are working with leading institutions across the country, including UCSF and MIT to develop state-of-the art student assessments mapped to interventions and accommodations, all supported by robust communities of professional learning.

Our dedication to equitable access to education for ALL students is unwavering. We are committed to doing more and doing better.

Andrew Friedman


President and CEO Learning Ally

Read More about "Education is a right, not a privilege", read our statement from Learning Ally CEO

2020 National Achievement Awards- Congratulations to our winners!
national achievement award banner

June 18, 2020 by Learning Ally

Since 1959, Learning Ally has honored exceptional students with print and learning disabilities with two endowed scholarships. Students are recognized for their academic excellence, leadership, and service to others. Each award winner has a long list of honors and accomplishments, and they have thrived thanks in part to their use of accessible educational content and assistive technology provided by Learning Ally’s Audiobook Solution. We are very proud to announce our 2020 Winners! Watch videos below from our inspiring winners to hear their stories. 

Marion Huber Learning Through Listening Award

Awarded to high school seniors who are Learning Ally members and are learning disabled

Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Award Winners

Awarded to college and graduate students who are Learning Ally members and blind or visually impaired

On behalf of the entire Learning Ally community, we would like to congratulate all our 2020 winners! 
 
The 2021 National Achievement Award Applications are now open! We encourage all eligible Learning Ally Members to submit their applications for these prestigious awards. Please submit applications by November 30th, 2020. Apply here: https://learningally.org/NAA/Application
 

Read More about 2020 National Achievement Awards- Congratulations to our winners!

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