The Ralph G. Norman Scholarship was recently awarded to three Arkansas students by the Learning Disabilities Association of Arkansas.
The scholarship is awarded annually to Arkansas residents with documented learning disabilities to attend a university, two-year community college, or a vocational/technical training program.
The 2016 scholarship winners are:
Emily Denny, a 2016 graduate of Little Rock Christian Academy, will attend the University of Arkansas this fall. She wants to use her passion for art and sign language to become a teacher and help other students who struggle to learn.
“I had always thought it was my own fault for always feeling left behind in my thoughts, always behind everyone else in problems, and always still trying to memorize things that just didn’t stick,” Denny wrote in her application. “I had thought I needed to just get on track and step it up. When I learned that this issue was not my own but instead the way I was created, I had a great relief and more self-worth.”
Denny says one of her personal goals is never to use her disability as an excuse not to do something. Kris Bower, Denny’s teacher at Little Rock Christian Academy, applauds her student’s determination.
"Emily’s self-awareness of both her strengths and weaknesses and her motivation to be her very best have empowered her," said Denny’s Little Rock Christian Academy teacher Kris Bower. “She consistently displays a principled example to those around her. I have personally witnessed her in situations where she could easily have been dishonest to gain an advantage, but the thought never occurred to her.”
Kaylee Parrish, a 2016 graduate of Marked Tree High School, will attend the Arkansas State University-Beebe this fall. Parrish hopes to become an early childhood special education teacher.
“I use my disability as a motivation for my future,” Parrish said. “I believe kids like myself need to know at a young age that they are valued, and that they should look at their disabilities for confidence, and let their disabilities make them who they are.”
Lea Blair, Parrish’s math teacher, said she has faced hurdles throughout high school and “met them with a smile and a willingness to work.”
Parrish, a cheerleader and member of the yearbook staff, exemplifies that “nothing worthwhile comes easy and that accolades and achievements are paid for, in advance, by hours of hard work,” said Matt Wright, her principal at Marked Tree High School.
Callie Seeley, a 2016 graduate of Lead Hill High School, will attend the University of Arkansas this fall and pursue her dream of becoming a pediatrician or neonatologist.
“She is very aware of her limitations, but never lets them slow her down,” said Linette Ribando, Seeley’s English teacher. “She is willing to work harder than most in order to realizer her goal. She understands very well that she may have to work harder to achieve what she has set her mind to, and she is willing to do whatever it takes in order to be successful.”
Seeley, who was involved in basketball, softball and art classes throughout high school, is well on her way to accomplishing those goals. She has already completed four online college courses through UA Monticello with perfect 4.0.
Learning disabilities should not be confused with other disabilities such as intellectual disabilities, autism, deafness, blindness and behavioral disorders. None of these conditions are learning disabilities. In addition, they should not be confused with lack of educational opportunities, such as frequent changes of schools or attendance problems. Also, children who are learning English do not necessarily have a learning disability.