PRINCETON, N.J. - Learning Ally, a 65-year-old nonprofit serving individuals with learning and visual disabilities, has bestowed its highest award to Dustin Henderson of Madras.
Henderson is one of six students from across the U.S. who will receive cash awards of $6,000 and travel with their families to be honored at Learning Ally's National Gala celebration in Washington, DC this April.
Having always excelled in math and science but struggled with reading and writing, Henderson recalls being diagnosed with dyslexia and put into special education classes in the fourth grade.
"It was like living in two different worlds," he says. "In one, I was the intelligent kid who knew the answers to math problems. In the other, I was the Special Ed student who couldn't read or write."
A turning point came when Henderson and his parents attended a seminar at Oregon Health and Science University on dyslexia. In addition to discovering tools that would later become essential to his success, such as audiobooks from Learning Ally, he gained a sense of confidence and new outlook on his dyslexia.
"I learned a lot about myself in those four short hours," he says. "I began to realize that my disability was simply an obstacle I would have to overcome."
Once he was equipped with the necessary educational support, Henderson's extracurricular and academic performance soared. A state medalist swimmer and the president of his school's National Honor Society, he graduated high school in May 2013 as a valedictorian with 22 college credits already completed.
Eager to continue his education, Henderson is currently pursuing a degree in mathematics at Oregon Institute of Technology.
"I used to view my learning disability as the bane of my existence," he says, "but now I define it as a learning difference. I do not let my disability define me; instead I define it, and have been able to take this view and pass it on to others struggling with similar situations."
About the National Achievement Awards
Each year, Learning Ally (formerly known as Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic) honors exceptional students through the Marion Huber Learning Through Listening Awards, which were instituted in 1991 for high school seniors with learning differences such as dyslexia. Hundreds of students apply for these prestigious awards each year and are selected by committees of Learning Ally volunteers, board members, parents, educators, donors and staff. Students are recognized for their academic excellence, leadership, and service to others; each award winner has a long list of honors and accomplishments, and has graduated with a GPA above 3.0, with most near the 4.0 mark; and they have thrived on their education paths thanks in part to their use of accessible educational content and assistive technology provided by Learning Ally. For information about applying for Learning Ally's National Achievement awards, visit http://NAA.LearningAlly.org/apply.
About Learning Ally
Founded in 1948, Learning Ally serves thousands of K-12, college and graduate students, veterans and lifelong learners – all of whom cannot read standard print due to blindness, visual impairment, dyslexia, or other learning disabilities. Through its programs and audiobooks, Learning Ally enables families and schools to manage the needs of students with learning disabilities. The organization offers integrated learning management systems and professional development for teachers, as well as support for parents through personal consultations, webinars and other tools. In addition, Learning Ally's collection of more than 80,000 human-narrated textbooks and literature titles can be downloaded on mainstream smartphones and tablets, and is the largest of its kind in the world. Several thousand volunteers help to produce the educational materials, which students rely on to achieve academic and professional success. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Learning Ally is partially funded by grants from state and local education programs, and the generous contributions of individuals, foundations and corporations. For more information, visit http://www.LearningAlly.org.