A Positive Attitude. Confidence. Perseverance.
by Gabriella Pecoraro ’07
It all started when I was in first grade. I can recall one eventful day walking back into my class from recess. The teacher strolled to the front of the room and announced that it was now reading time. I sat down to read like all my other classmates and as I looked up I saw the teacher peering down at me. She noticed that I was holding my book, Frog and Toad, upside down and she announced to the class that I was...stupid. Yes, she used the 'S' word. Even while my classmates were laughing at me, I didn’t realize the impact these words would have. I learned to never let someone else bring you down. Let the positive influences impact the way you feel about yourself. Use the negative to drive you further to success and be your motivation to prove the doubters wrong.
After completing the Landmark Summer Program prior to going into 5th grade, my parents enrolled me in the school for the academic year. I worked diligently day in and day out each and every year in tutorial and was introduced to multiple strategies and skills that I still use to this day, but Landmark gave me something much more profound – a positive attitude, confidence, and perseverance.
By senior year of high school, I wanted to start sharing my story. I participated in the Student Advocates program where we visited colleges, universities, and even elementary schools in the area to talk about what it is like to have a learning disability. We spoke at venues ranging from Harvard Graduate School of Education all the way to a Montessori elementary school. I learned that talking publicly about my learning difference made me feel empowered.
As I established myself in a new community at Stonehill College where I majored in International Business and Economics, I got involved on campus. In my freshman year, I joined the Disabilities Services Committee as a Student Ambassador. What I realized was that my confidence to share my story allowed me to support others who were struggling with a similar learning difference. By my junior year, I had created a Disability Awareness Project and I realized that I was putting the most valuable lesson I learned at Landmark into practice. I had the confidence and speaking skills to help people better understand others’ learning differences, and maybe even their own.
With the end of senior year approaching, I started to look for a job. I remember in an interview I was asked: “What is your biggest weakness?” With no hesitation, I answered, “Without the confidence and the right attitude, my learning disability could be a weakness.” However, I clarified that it was really just an obstacle that I had learned to overcome and cope with – every day. This interview was for a position at John Hancock Financial Services where I currently work.
Even as my obligations continued in my career, I joined Toastmasters, a public speaking organization for professionals. I am always looking to improve my skills and face my learning differences head-on allowing me to become more confident and comfortable in the work force and stride forward.
Who would ever have thought that the little girl holding the book upside down pretending to read would be where I am today?
Thank you Landmark.
(From The Lantern Fall 2013/Winter 2014)
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