April 24th, 2007

2007 Anne Ford Scholarship Winner

Ryan Makinson – Personal Statement

Some people fear heights, other people fear snakes, but what I fear is writing essays. I find nothing more daunting than a blank sheet of paper waiting for me to divulge my thoughts and feelings that do not want to come. My head is streaming with thoughts, but my hand fights the transfer of my own ideas to the blank sheet of paper. I look at my hand and ask “why, why does writing have to be such an arduous ordeal? Why do you prohibit my thoughts from gushing out of my head and onto a simple sheet of paper? Why am I destined to agonize over a task that others find so effortless?” “I do not know why,” I tell myself, “but I am who I am, and I accept that.”
My frustrations with my learning disability in written expression reach back to some of my first recollections as a child. Some of my first memories of kindergarten are not happy, but they are important for me to understand who I am. As I look back, I see myself sitting in a small chair frantically trying to finish my writing assignment. My teacher blows her whistle. I have missed playground time once again. I choke back tears of disappointment because I did not wish the other kids to see my frustration. Unable to understand why writing and spelling tests were so difficult for me, I tried harder and attempted to memorize whole words long before a spelling test, but with little success. I repeated kindergarten the next year. So, three years later when I was diagnosed with a severe learning disability and ADHD, I was not surprised; the diagnosis merely put into words what I had observed and experienced over the past years. Despite numerous attempts to ease the difficulties I encountered in written expression, including Special Education classes, reading programs, and tutoring, writing came agonizingly slow. In the eighth grade, additional testing revealed fascinating insight into how my brain functioned. I was currently in the 98th percentile for visual memory, but only in the 6th percentile for decoding words. Every word I knew how to spell came from my visual memory. Given these results, my parents decided to enroll me in the Wilson Reading program which was designed to instruct decoding words and the rules of spelling. After two years of didactic instruction, I had made considerable progress, but writing still came tediously slow, so I began seeking different means of coping with my learning disability.
Five years later, writing was still hindering my progress in English, but now I had turned to my ingenuity to discover novel ways of dealing with my learning disability. I was intelligent, cunning, and resourceful. I developed my strengths to their full potential. Dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion in pursuit of my goals was the price of success I paid in high school. I realized I was not born with spectacular abilities; but the choices that I have made to use my abilities to their full potential have set me apart from others. The key to unlocking my potential did not stem merely though strength or intelligence, but from continuous effort. I am proud to say that I have made straight A’s so far in my high school career. I am currently ranked 3rd in my class with a weighted GPA of 4.81, but my success in high school was bought through countless long nights of studying, copious amounts of review, continuously going the extra mile in pursuit of my goals, and always striving to do my best in whatever I set my mind to. I have not always been the smartest kid in class, but I can say I have consistently been the most dedicated and hardest working kid in the class. Starting with my AP English 11 class, I have begun to conquer my fear of writing. Through copious quantities of writing, I have painstakingly strived to enhance my writing skills. I may never fully become a prolific writer but I am resolved to become an excellent writer some day. I am resolute to not allow my learning disability to compromise my success in anything I do.
I do not define myself based on my learning disability. My learning disability to me has only been one obstacle that has sculptured the person I am today. I am proud to say that my greatest accomplishment has been to serve my community. There is no greater gift than in the act of giving. For as long as I can remember, service to others has constituted the foundation of my personality. Throughout the years, I have strived to serve others through my church, school, and scouts.
With my church youth group, I have had the opportunity to help organize and participate in numerous local volunteer activities, as well as other outreach programs including a mission trip to South Carolina in 2005, and a two week long mission trip to Santa Cruz, Bolivia in 2006. Through my school, I have participated in a multitude of service projects to the community. Through the National Honor Society, I have helped clean up litter around my school’s campus. As the treasurer of the Student Government Association, I have helped raise funds to buy needy children Christmas gifts, provide financial aid for humanitarian work for children in Hungary, and help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. I have helped organize a school dance to raise money for the battered women’s shelter in Greensboro, as well as a Red Cross blood drive.
For as long as I can remember, scouting has always been my compass and map to guide me whatever direction I may go. Scouting has also provided me the opportunity to develop valuable leadership skills through various leadership positions, including senior Patrol leader. I am also thankful for the volunteer opportunities that scouting has given me including my as well as others’ Eagle Scout projects, serving food to the poor, cleaning up beaches, and many other humanitarian and conservation projects. I am thankful for the lessons, opportunities, and guidance that scouting has given me, and I look forward to continuing my involvement with the Boy Scouts of America, now as an adult leader.
Besides school work, my life is continuously busy. I’m constantly involved in organizing or participating in volunteer work, or fulfilling my obligations to numerous organizations or clubs in which I belong. I often wake up asking myself, “How much can I get done today?” I set goals high, and I always attempt to take a pragmatic approach when pursuing my goals. I love to help other people, and I’m grateful for the opportunities and abilities that God has given me to help others.
Now that I’m beginning my senior year, I will soon be starting down a new path of life. Although exactly where this trail will take me is an enigma, the path is already placed before my feet. My community and family have prepared me well for new challenges I will encounter as I plan to attend college next year. I plan on majoring in neurology, and someday earn my PhD. so that I can conduct my own research. I have always been fascinated with how the human brain works, and I am eager to unlock mysteries hidden within our mind. My curiosity has in part stemmed from a desire to understand how the brain copes with a learning disability. The field of neurology is filled with an infinite amount of possibilities and I know that I can always go to work and be learning for a lifetime about the complex anatomy of the brain. I am euphoric to begin my college education and to learn in-depth how the mind and body interact.
I know now that I am ready for college because I no longer sit in front of a blank sheet of paper that mocks me. I now sit and stare at a sheet of paper prolifically overflowing with ideas and dreams. Despite another onerous trial, I have written one more essay. I am determined to not allow my learning disability hinder my progress, and whatever I decide to write about next, I am not afraid.

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