March 8th, 2016

2016 Anne Ford Scholarship Winner

Elijah Ditchendorf is known and respected by all for his hard work, leadership and kindness. From an early age, he has been attending and participating in his IEP meetings and is an effective and confident self-advocate for needed supports and accommodations. Despite his struggles with dyslexia, he has a transcript filled with honors and advanced placement courses, and has chosen to study nanotechnology and biomedical engineering in college. When asked about his journey through school, Elijah spoke about his commitment to “give back,” sharing details about his fundraising for earthquake victims in Haiti and his many hours of volunteer tutoring. And when asked about his LD, Elijah explained that, “there is nothing wrong with learning differently, as long as you are honest about the kinds of supports you need to achieve your goals.”

Elijah Ditchendorf – Personal Statement

My differences have taught me that no one should ever define my potential in terms of learning. I have embraced my learning differences. They are part of who I am as are my other characteristics. I was raised in a family where I was taught that giving back to others is a very important part of life. My mother is a social worker-and my father is a carpenter. I can remember my father volunteering with organizations like Habitat for Humanity. He would be the first person to volunteer when a community member needed a ramp built or had some other need. My mother taught me that life is about giving back to others.
When I was in 6th grade I organized a fundraiser for the victims of the earthquake that devastated Haiti, Hats for Haiti, we were able to raise over $500.00. By 7th grade, I was returning to my elementary school to volunteer tutor for 3′ grade science students who were struggling in class. I have continued to tutor every year since. I have realized that my different style of learning can really help others who may be struggling with traditional learning. One of the biggest enjoyments I have is the moment that the student I am working with ‘clicks’ and really understands what is going on. I feel that my characteristics and my educational story really aligns with the values of the Anne Ford Scholarship of contributing to society and increasing the potential of all individuals with learning differences.
I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was in the first grade. Early on I was displaying some learning differences, so teachers suggested that I be tested for processing issues. I can remember getting pulled out of my class and going with the school psychologist for testing. I can also remember after the testing was complete, sitting down with my parents. My mother explained that I was dyslexic just like my father. My mother explained that this just meant that I processed things like reading, spelling and writing a little differently than most kids my age. She went on to explain that if I needed things read to me or if I felt like I needed a little extra time when I took a test I could simply ask my teacher. I learned from an early age how to self-advocate for my educational needs. My parents always included me in my yearly IEP meetings with the belief that dyslexia was my learning difference and I should be included in these meetings so I would learn how to advocate and support myself.
By the time I was in 6th grade, I was in all accelerated classes. In order to be in accelerated math and science I also had to be in accelerated language arts. It was all or nothing in 6th grade. My 6th grade teacher, from the beginning of year, shared that she did not feel that I would be successful in this track due to my learning differences, but she was willing to accommodate me. I ended that year with all A’s. I felt I had a pretty successful year.
At my IEP meeting at the end of 6th grade, my mother and I were informed that I was not going to be recommended for 7th accelerated language arts or science. My mother and I both tried to advocate but we were told by the 7th grade science teacher that she would not allow me to be in the accelerated science class without the recommendation of my 6th grade teacher. My 6th grade teacher proceeded to explain that she felt I had reached my fullest potential with science and would not be successful in the 7th grade track because I needed too many accommodations, ie. spelling help and copies of notes. I was devastated. My mother was devastated. I can remember trying to understand why this happened. Science and math were my passions, and I had been successful. I felt like my school system was letting me down.
Toward the end of the first semester in 7th grade, my accelerated math teacher began to question why I was not in accelerated science. Within a few days, my parents and I were back in another IEP meeting where I was advised that I would be going back into accelerated science. The 7th grade science teacher explained that because of the fast pace of the class and the fact that I was transferring late in the semester, I should not expect to get A’s and should be satisfied with B’s or C’s. She stated that although she was hesitant about this change, she would allow it because of my math teacher’s involvement. I felt anxious but more excited to be where I was supposed to be and to be challenged again.
I have continued to take the highest level Science and Math courses offered throughout my high school years. These classes continue to be my passion. I feel the same level of excitement about them as I did in elementary school. I am really looking forward to beginning my college career. I have decided to stay with my science and math passions as well as my passion to help better the lives of others and pursue a path of Biomedical Engineering with a concentration of nanotechnology. I will continue to tutor and mentor during my college years as well as this is something that I enjoy doing. The opportunity that the Anne Ford Scholarship may possibly be able to give me would make such a huge impact on being able to finance my academic goals without having to incur such tremendous debt. Regardless, I am grateful for the opportunity to apply for this scholarship.

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