Caitlyn McSorley, a freshman, has spent her first semester figuring out how to be a college student. She has learned which foods to avoid in Glar, how much sleep will get her through the next day, and probably met some people who will turn out to be her friends for life. And, so far, she thinks McDaniel is a pretty good fit.
Academically, the first year of college is often a struggle for most due to the added rigor of classes and freedom to do work or simply avoid it. Beyond the new academic challenges that college poses for all students, Caitlyn deals with an extra hurdle: dyslexia.
Megan Henry, Caitlyn’s academic coach in Student Academic Support Services, or SASS, explains that dyslexia occurs because of problems with decoding and encoding, which are phonetic identifications that interfere with reading fluency.
“Let’s see that you or I might see the number 21,” Megan says. “She might only see the number 12, or just the one or the two, and that’s just the way the mind sees it.”
Caitlyn refuses to let dyslexia keep her from achieving, though. In fact, through her hard work and dedication to academics, Caitlyn has been recognized by the Maryland branch of the International Dyslexia Association. While Caitlyn was among eight total students to receive honors from the association, she was the sole recipient of the Finish Line scholarship, a $1,000 award.
To her coach Megan, the award was no surprise. “She has an extreme amount of maturity. She always comes prepared, is always open to suggestions, and she doesn’t let her disability define her. Caitlyn is very actualized,” Megan states.
Caitlyn’s character shines outside of the classroom as well as through her community service. She has gone on several mission trips, volunteered at a horse farm for kids with special needs, and functioned at her high school as the President of Best Buddies, which she explains is “a program that promotes friendship for people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities.”
Caitlyn says that “small class sizes that allow you to interact closely with fellow students and professors” drew her to McDaniel during her application process last year.
For Caitlyn, dyslexia does not limit her ability to shine as a student, a volunteer, or a role model. Karen Hamilton, Acting Director of SASS, feels that Caitlyn’s ability to overcome her disability exemplifies the nature of all students in the SASS program.
Karen says, “For all students at SASS, [their disability] is a small part of their makeup, but it doesn’t define them.”
Caitlyn is an example to the entire McDaniel community. From her achievements and award from the International Dyslexia Association, it is apparent that perseverance leads to success, hard work has benefits, and a disability should never be viewed as a disadvantage.