This article originally appeared in The Beacon Fall 2012 issue.
There is one particular memory from my elementary years that has remained with me: I am sitting on my bed at home, reading a book aloud to my dad. I remember trying my hardest to read through all the words and make him proud; however, I struggled through every word, and my dad had tears streaming down his face. This was in fifth grade. I had the reading level of a second grader.
I had started the first grade at a public school, but right away the school realized that it could not accommodate me, as I had been diagnosed with both dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. My parents and I then visited various private schools that would offer me one-on-one reading support, and I enrolled for the second half of my first grade year at Tuxedo Park School in Tuxedo Park, NY. The school’s reading teacher, Mrs. Betty, spent an hour each day helping me with my reading comprehension and writing skills while the rest of my classmates were in foreign language class. Not only did I meet with Mrs. Betty every day, I also spent time after school with a tutor, who helped me with my homework. Although I had a great support system, it was a struggle to get to the reading level of my classmates.
My tutors and teachers helped as best they could, but it wasn’t enough. My parents and I had heard of The Windward School, and we knew it could help me move through the next phase of my education. During the tour of the School, led by Ms. Maureen Sweeney, the Director of Admissions, my parents started to cry. They knew immediately that this was the place for me. I was admitted, and enrolled at the School for my eighth grade year.
Windward was different. I felt an instant connection with my classmates, who were going through the same struggles as I was when it came to reading. Each day, I hopped in my carpool with several other students from my town in New Jersey and made the hour and a half ride to the School in White Plains, NY.
I started to blossom. I got involved in sports and theatre at Windward, even with my lack of hand eye coordination; I was not turned away from any of the teams. I was so excited about being in the right place for my education that I even got involved with the boys’ sports teams as the assistant for the boys’ lacrosse team!
When it was time for high school, my classmates and I moved from the Middle School to Windward’s Upper School, located on Rosedale Avenue in White Plains, where we only had classes of about 20 people per grade. We were a close group, and the teachers devoted more than enough time and attention to each student. I was learning skills I never knew existed. I learned how to put my thoughts into words, how to write a paper and how to study.
Unfortunately, at the beginning of my sophomore year at Windward, we received the news that the Upper School would be closing due to the mandate for standardized testing imposed by the state. I knew that I wanted to transition back to public school, and I was determined to enter a mainstream school and succeed there with the tools that Windward’s amazing faculty gave me. I was so driven to do this that I visited my local public school in the middle of the school year and made the switch. Everyone was worried that I would fail there and that I would have to return to Windward, but I was driven to succeed. I spent the rest of my high school career in public school, and received honors in all my classes. Upon graduation in 2003, I went to Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, where I earned both my undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in management in only five years. I achieved honors in both degrees, and I was able to be successful thanks to Windward and the skills the teachers instilled in me.
Once out of school, I started working in the management training program at Target, but quickly discovered that I wanted to work supporting women and minorities in a business environment. I went on to work for the Women Presidents’ Organization, a nonprofit organization in New York City aimed at improving business conditions for and promoting the advancement of women in business, and was there for two years. I recently accepted a position as a Senior Program Manager at the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council in Washington, D.C.; it is one of the largest certifiers of businesses owned and operated by women in the United States. I am working with WBENC’s educational programs and with their certification process to help women business owners. I have found my calling professionally in helping women succeed in business, but I know that it would not have been possible without Windward and the support of my parents, who never gave up on me. From the time when I struggled to read the word “the,” to my parents’ tears of joy as I received my degrees with honors, I would not be where I am today without the help of The Windward School.