Paying It Forward
by Tom O’Riordan
When Theo van Roijen graduated from high school in Washington, DC, she was convinced that she would never be able to handle college. After a couple of years taking art and music classes, she decided she wanted to attend a four-year college. Theo recognized in herself a deficit in her academic foundation and sought a place to rebuild and strengthen her skills before enrolling in college. That place turned out to be Landmark High School where she lived and studied for two years as a post-graduate student. At Landmark, Theo built academic supports that served her through college and led her to a career helping others as a Kurzweil Assistive Technology Specialist.
Aside from learning language arts and study skills, Theo also developed a strong understanding of her own learning disability, as well as strategies for living with her disability in an academic setting. Academic skills are not the only necessary attribute for success; the desire to learn and the confidence to overcome barriers are just as crucial. At Landmark, Theo began to nurture an interest and fascination with books and learning. She developed an intellectual curiosity for the first time because she was able to interact with the material rather than struggling to access it. Reflecting on her time at Landmark, she says, “I began to believe I was smart enough to succeed in college. Landmark is a place that nourishes hope and builds self-confidence.”
It was that confidence and resiliency that led Theo down her current career path. As a Kurzweil Technology Specialist at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Theo now focuses on helping students with learning disabilities access college level material. Her job presents her with a constant flow of students of all ages, many of whom are struggling to stay afloat handling the demands of college. Theo teaches them the ins and outs of Kurzweil Assistive Technology, while simultaneously sharing with them her understanding of her own disability. When students leave her office, Theo hopes they will have the ability to access material and to build on their own academic foundation.
(From The Lantern Fall 2015/Winter 2016)
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