I had attended the Crossroads School for summer school for a couple of summers so I knew some of the teachers and a few students as well. The transition was easy as the teachers understood how I needed to be taught, the classroom sizes were small (8 kids in my grade) and every student in the school understood what it was like to have a learning disability. I began to learn that it was okay to make mistakes and ask for help, I needed extra time for tests, I needed a heads up when I was going to be asked to read, and that even though it may take me longer to learn something than someone else, I can still get the job done. Not only did I learn about my disability, but I learned that it was important for me to have a positive outlet. I enjoyed art class and playing soccer, basketball and lacrosse for the school. With the help from all the faculty at Crossroads and my loving family, I was beginning to fully accept my learning disability, but not let it define me.
I graduated from Crossroads and attended Delaware Valley Friends School (DVFS) for two years. At DVFS I began to learn to advocate for myself, accept the fact that history would always be hard for me, and that I had a huge passion for photography. After my sophomore year, I was ready for a challenge of being taught by teachers who didn’t fully understand my learning style before heading to college, and transferred to my public school. I remember having the confidence that if I just study hard and do my best with every class I’d be okay, except history. I was terrified that my history teacher wasn’t going to understand, that I wasn’t going to pass, and if I didn’t pass, I wasn’t going to graduate. Well, as I went into set my schedule for my junior year, I was relieved that psychology and sociology were considered history classes. I thrived in my psychology and sociology classes, but began having trouble in math and English class. My teachers weren’t giving me notes for my class or following other parts of my IEP (Individualized Education Plan). I had to articulate issues and stand up for myself with adults. My last two years of high school were difficult, but they made me stronger as I was fully able to advocate for myself. After graduating high school, I went onto college where I continued to advocate for myself, and learned that I thrive when I learn about something I love.
I moved to Portland, OR to live near my sister, and started work as a Skills Trainer for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I enjoyed connecting with people who were different and building relationships. During the week I would work with children on daily tasks in their homes, and also go out into the community. During the weekend, I would support 4 adults who lived in a foster home. Each person brought their own light into each day. I took classes and became a certified nursing assistant (CNA), which expanded my knowledge of ways to support people, and worked at a rehabilitation center.
I knew about L’Arche as my sister and brother-in-law met in L’Arche Tacoma. I remember feeling the love and the bond that all the core members and assistants had at my sister’s wedding, so I applied for the Care Coordinator role for L’Arche Portland. From the moment I met the core members and those who supported daily life, I felt completely accepted. My relationships with the core members grew quickly. We connected because we know what it is like to be different and to want to be seen for the beautiful people we are and not the disabilities we have. It brought me back to a time in high school when I began to dislike the word disability because it breaks down to “not able”. I was frustrated with the fact that in a way it was telling me that I wasn’t able to learn. Now I know that I can learn, I just learn differently, and I own my disability.