Moving America Forward

An Unlikely Pairing Leads to Higher Self-Esteem and Academic Empowerment

March 26, 2014
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An Unlikely Pairing Leads to Higher Self-Esteem and Academic Empowerment
Eye to Eye YouTube
Eye to Eye matches kids with learning disabilities with older students who also know what it’s like to struggle with school.

When a child has a learning disability, he or she might find it more difficult to read, write, spell, or listen compared to most other children of the same age. Unfortunately, many remain at an academic disadvantage for most of their lives.

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, close to half of secondary students with learning disabilities are about three grade levels behind and only 10 percent of these students enroll in a four-year college compared to 28 percent of the general population. Because many don’t have degrees, they are at a disadvantage when it comes to finding employment — only 55 percent of working-age adults with disabilities are employed compared to 75 percent without.

The stats are major hurdles for the 2.4 million students who have learning disabilities, but an innovative mentoring program called Eye to Eye is trying to level the playing field. Using art as a medium, the nonprofit matches students with learning disabilities with successful high school or college students who are disabled themselves.

MORE: Meet the Pioneering Program That Teaches Autistic Students Invaluable Computer Skills

The organization was founded in 1998 by a group of Brown University students who have ADHD and other learning disabilities. “The idea of Eye to Eye was really simple,” co-founder David Flink, who is dyslexic, told Truth Atlas. “We were just a bunch of college students who had different types of learning disabilities, and we’re going to go hang out with a bunch of fifth and sixth graders to share what we knew about how to access school in the best possible way.”

Not only do younger kids benefit from a one-on-one relationship with someone who has been in their shoes, but it also allows the older kids to feel great about helping a struggling learner succeed.

Since its launch, Eye to Eye has worked with thousands of students and successfully grown to 62 chapters in 22 states. According to their website, an overwhelming majority of the mentees have found better self-esteem (85 percent), academic empowerment (87 percent), and increased hope for the future (87 percent).

Check out the video above to learn more about the organization.

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