June 17th, 2019

2019 Anne Ford Scholarship Winner: Tyler Washington

Tyler Washington

“I truly love the journey learning to overcome things… it builds confidence…. and I would be honored to talk to people in my situation, share encouragement and let them know they are not alone.”
Tyler started her school years as a kid who was “hard to understand” because of articulation delays, but speech therapy was success at addressing this issue. What didn’t go away was her unexplained struggle keeping up in academics. Everyone agreed that her grades did not reflect her knowledge, and despite lots of tutoring, she kept falling further behind in academics. After testing, she said “I was thrilled to hear I had dyslexia!“ And her mom agreed. “After her diagnosis, the change was dramatic…  she came alive, as a student and as a leader.”
Tyler wrote about having dyslexia in her college essay, and her selection of UConn for college was based on it having both a strong engineering major and a well-established program of supports for students with disabilities.
In addition to running a website about African American hair fashion and care, Tyler enjoys martial arts, soccer, photography, and doing jigsaw puzzles, cryptograms and mazes.

Tyler Washington Personal Statement

Building confidence is like climbing Mt. Everest, a long treacherous trek with no end in sight. Weighed down by words, I struggled to take my first step. The simplest words like “who” and “teacher” looked like “how” and “tetchears.” I couldn’t seem to distinguish the easiest of words or write a coherent sentence. Like the last hiker on the trail, I was always a step or two behind my classmates.
Until my dyslexia was diagnosed, I could not understand why I was different from my peers or why I would forget what words looked like and sounded like. I struggled when  I finished reading a sentence because I would forget what it said. Like the hiker falling behind, I could not see the summit, especially when words would disappear like a vanishing act.
Even with these setbacks, I refused to give in to   frustration, both emotionally and academically. Once embarrassed to participate in class, I now focused on building relationships with my peers. Conversations with them were difficult. Their words were like a   speeding train, slow enough for  me to see and hear but too fast to follow along. Often, I would face impatience and teasing, corrections and reprimanding.
Determined to change this, I had to retrain myself to alter my speaking patterns. Slowing down and being clear and concise when I spoke became essential. This change revealed unexpected surprises. I discovered that my classmates were truly interested in learning about JavaScript and Python. They were curious about my website “Patterns” about African American hair care regimens and styles. I no longer felt like the last hiker on the trail. I was inspired to explore the world of virtual gaming, and I developed my own version of Candy Land.
Empowerment came to  me in different forms. Having once been excluded, I developed my philosophy of inclusion. Selected by my school’s administration to be a Student Ambassador, I found my voice. Speaking to parents and incoming students, I become an official spokesman for my school. As a Peer Leader and Mediator, I learned the art of comprise and the importance of leadership. These roles were not always easy, especially when there was a contradiction of beliefs. These encounters were opportunities to improve my listening skills while always being mindful of respect.
The power of community is important to me. Having the conviction to run for Student Council president and not feeling defeated by my loss, I decided I could best serve my classmates and the larger school community through the Cultural Diversity Committee and the Black Essence Club. Allowing open conversations among different religions, cultures and political perspectives inspired me to learn about others and create safe spaces for discussion. It is hard to believe that I was once introverted and now I lead discussions at the Culture Diversity Summit.
I have a  love for helping people who have learning disabilities like myself. It was because  of this passion, in 2017, that I introduced Learning Ally (an audio book site) to my school to assist students who have trouble keeping up in class. Being able to ease my classmates’ struggles was very rewarding and spurred my interest to help my community. I had so many ideas, but no way to execute them. My interests and strengths did not seem to work together. It was not until I had a deeper understanding of STEM that everything came together. It opened my eyes to so many fields that can integrate my passions. I decided to major in engineering and computer science in college because these majors will teach me how to build and program new innovative technologies that can be a resource for those who need assistance. I would like to find a way to apply these areas of study to cognitive sciences, so I will have a better understanding of how the brain works, how people learn, and what challenges some students face.
Lastly, I want to minor in ASL (American  Sign Language).  It may seem strange that I would choose to study ASL but my interest in the deaf community stems from my experiences as a dyslexic individual. I know that going through life with a disability can be hard and frustrating, but I feel an obligation to help those who are different. I want to make the lives of those who are hearing impaired easier when communicating socially and in business. Another part of me believes that even more improvement can be made to link    the deaf community to the hearing world. There are many technologies that help some people regain their hearing, but inventions are needed for those who will never hear. I believe I can help companies bridge the gap that separates the hearing world and the deaf community. If I can help even one person who is affected by disabilities, then I believe my purpose in life will be fulfilled. I am confident that I can give back to my community through computer science. The Anne Ford Scholarship can afford me the opportunity to achieve my goals and help me accomplish my educational dreams.
Every day I try to climb different mountains, not fearful of the unknown or being  the last  one on the trail. It is true that the journey is more important than the destination. I choose to be resilient. Being brave every day is a necessity for me. It will always take me a little more time to read, and I will always misspell words. However, there is no doubt in my mind that I will reach many summits and help many people.  I am courageous, I am resourceful, and I am a leader who can’t wait to discover my potential.

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