51st National Achievement Awards

Past National Achievements Awards Winners

51st Annual National Achievement Award: 2010 Winners

Learning Through Listening® (LTL) Awards for Learning Ally Members with a Learning Disability

Top Winners receiving $6,000 award and trip to Washington, DC:

Ryan Ansel

Ryan Thomas Ansel

Hometown: Fort Washington, Pennsylvania

Learning Difference: Acute Dyslexia

Education Path: Graduated from Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia; plans to attend Davidson College in North Carolina and major in Biology

“I transformed dyslexia from my enemy into a source of motivation. Dyslexia and Learning Ally are the reasons I have been able to achieve high academic honors each year in high school. My academic playing field will never be level, and any accomplishments will demand more time and sacrifice – but with the tools and support from Learning Ally I have the real opportunity to achieve.”

Liat Hoffman

Liat Hoffman

Hometown: San Diego, California

Learning Difference: Dyslexia and Reading Disorder with deficits in fluency and comprehension

Education Path: Graduated from San Diego Jewish Academy; plans to attend Chapman University

“Struck with fear, I became the quiet kid in the back of the class afraid to be called on in front of my peers. School and my personal life had become a maze of hopelessness and fear. Taking it one step at a time, I chose to face each of my fears and fill myself with positive thoughts of courage and hope. I began to overcome my anxiety about reading. Learning Ally has opened countless doors for me. ”

Kyle Wittenauer

Kyle Wittenauer

Hometown: Richmond, Virginia

Learning Difference: Severe Spatial Processing Deficiency, Dysgraphia, and Attention Deficit Disorder

Education Path: Graduated from St. Christopher’s School in Richmond; was accepted early decision to Yale University and will major in Cognitive Neuroscience

“I will never make the television team for our Battle of the Brains club at school, because my ability to ring the buzzer first is impaired – in spite of the fact that my brain might be the first one with the correct answer. I am fortunate to have had my disabilities diagnosed and been given the tools to prevail over them. I often say that Learning Ally saved my academic life.”

Special Honors Winners receiving $2,000:

Katie Salmon

Hometown: Edison, New Jersey

Learning Difference: Dyslexia

Education Path: Graduated from Purnell School in Pottersville; plans to attend Syracuse University in NY and major in Nutrition

“I do not have a learning disability. I have a learning difference. I own my dyslexia; my dyslexia doesn’t own me. With the help of Learning Ally, I have no worries about keeping up in class; I have become an independent learner.”

Loriann Schmidt

Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky

Learning Difference: Dyslexia, Reading and Written Expression Disability

Education Path: Graduated from Assumption High School in Louisville, KY; plans to attend Florida State University and major in Exercise Science

“It is the most relieving feeling to know that I can take care of my educational needs forever with Learning Ally’s support. My goal is to be seen as a person who has succeeded while facing a difference that could have stopped me in my tracks. I don’t feel that a learning difference should be an excuse, but rather an opportunity to reach beyond what is expected and to picture my life as something more. If you can picture what you want, you can fulfill even your wildest goal.”

Andrew Covington

Hometown: St. Simons Island, Georgia

Learning Difference: Dyslexia

Education Path: Graduated from Frederica Academy in St. Simons Island; plans to attend University of Georgia and major in Business

“I would like to make others aware of the silent child who could easily be missed. I would like to see more education on the signs to look for in diagnosing different types of dyslexia, so that parents and teachers can help children grasp their disability and accept it, and put them on a successful path. I can honestly say that Learning Ally saved my educational career as well as my social life, which I had no time for prior to using the program, and has made all the difference in the world.”

Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Awards (SAA) for Learning Ally Members who are Blind or Visually Impaired

Top Winners receiving $6,000 award and trip to Washington, DC:

Susan Qashu

Susan Qashu

Hometown: Tucson, Arizona

Education Path: Graduated from the University of Arizona with a Ph.D. from the
Arid Lands Resource Sciences Program and a minor in Natural Resources

“Learning Ally was a principal player throughout my undergraduate and Master of Science education, and has enriched my life through continued reading and learning. My long- range aspiration is to work as a program director in a multicultural setting within poor resource-dependent communities.”

Daniel Standage

Daniel Standage

Hometown: Tucson, Arizona

Learning Difference: Legally Blind, bilateral optic nerve atrophy resulting from a vaccination he received while in the Marine Corps.

Education Path: Graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Science degree in Rehabilitation

“When I first lost my vision, I went into a dark place, and reading was the last thing on my mind. But school became a conduit for me to change my life, and Learning Ally was a major part of coming back for me. I began taking leadership roles within the blinded veteran community and advocating for student veterans who were too ashamed to ask for help. I continue to serve those who served and consider my membership with Learning Ally as a tool for accessing the printed word.”

Sharon Burniston

Sharon Burniston

Hometown: Maplewood, New Jersey

Learning Difference: Legally Blind, Stargardt’s Disease (juvenile macular degeneration)

Education Path: Graduated from Drew University with a Master of Divinity

“When I did an internship as a chaplain for institutionalized persons with disabilities, I began to embrace the label of disability that I had shunned before. My eyesight gives me a different perspective, not an impaired point of view. Learning Ally has been a blessing in my life.”

Special Honors Winners receiving $3,000:

Jamesie Morgan

Hometown: Harpswell, Maine

Learning Difference: Legally Blind, Stargardt’s Disease

Education Path: Graduated from the University of Southern Maine with a Master’s of Science degree in Teaching and Learning

“One of the concerns my professors had when considering me for a teacher education program was how I was going to support my students learning if I was not able to read regular print. Learning Ally has provided the answer to this rather important question. . . Throughout my life I have been told what I was and was not capable of accomplishing, but I have come to realize that my disability is not a limitation at all.”

Meghan Whalen

Hometown: Madison, Wisconsin

Learning Difference: Legally Blind, Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis with some light perception

Education Path: Graduated from University of Wisconsin with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing

“I’ve seen the delightful results of working with others to help them grow confident in their abilities. Some folks just need someone to help them identify that potential and coax it to the surface. It would bring joy to my heart to be that person for as many people as possible.”

Jo Anna Larson

Hometown: Florence, Alabama

Learning Difference: Legally Blind, Cone-Rod Dystrophy

Education Path: Graduated from the University of North Alabama with a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology

“When you gradually lose your vision and ability to read, you don’t realize how much you’ve depended on reading your entire life; and you’re left with this feeling of ‘Oh my god, what am I going to do now? I’ve just lost half of my world.’ To be frank, before stepping into this education path in 2007, the biggest stumbling block I anticipated was READING. And when the opportunity to return to school was first offered to me, my gut reaction was to turn it down, because I did not want to engage in an activity that I would probably fail at. It wasn’t until my rehab counselor introduced me to Learning Ally, did I actually look at going back to school seriously. It took that step to convince me I could do this. And now with continued access to Learning Ally, I continue to succeed.”

Honors Winners receiving $1,000:

Denna Lambert

Hometown: Greenbelt, Maryland

Learning Difference: Legally blind, congenital cataracts, Nystagmus, Photophobia

Education Path: Graduated from George Washington University with a Master’s of Science degree in Public Administration; currently working at the Goddard Center of NASA.

“I would argue that the number of books in Learning Ally’s library represents the number of opportunities children and adults have to explore, grow, lead, and ultimately engage in learning through listening. For me, it represents the number of opportunities I have to continue my own development with NASA, where extensive knowledge of a subject matter area is not just a benefit, but a requirement. The added value of recorded texts goes beyond academic needs in a classroom, toward continued professional development.”

Laura McAuliffe

Hometown: Reno, Nevada

Learning Difference: Legally blind, born with congenital cataracts, corneal edema in right eye

Education Path: Graduated from the University of Phoenix with a Master’s of Science degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy

“The many volunteers who read the books at Learning Ally should know how important they are and the huge difference this service makes in the lives of children and adults who have difficulty using printed materials. Learning Ally is part of the freedom to be able to read and gives us the ability to be successful in our careers.”

Rose Friedheim

Hometown: Kailua, Hawaii

Learning Difference: Legally Blind, visually impaired

Education Path: Graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology; plans to enter graduate school to pursue counseling psychology

“I’m going into graduate school without defining too much what the future should be. I’ve lived my life as a learning disabled student, but now I know that we can’t let our limitations define us. Learning Ally has allowed me to accept who I am and flourish despite my weaknesses. I’ve been able to let my strengths shine and want to make a difference in this world.”