Hi everyone, my name is Kaela and I’m a 22 year old student at Scottsdale Community College. When I’m not at school, I’m slaving away as a barista at Starbucks. I’m a Zumba enthusiast who is an aspiring Zumba instructor. I’m a devoted One Direction fan and the Phoenix Suns are my team. Oh, and by the way, I have a learning disability. My brain doesn’t process information like other people’s brains do. Because of this, I’ve struggled with education since middle school. My situation is unique because my learning disability is an invisible one. People can’t automatically tell that I have a learning disability by just looking at me or talking to me. There are times when my learning disability makes me feel incompetent when it comes to school and in my social life. There have been times when I felt like giving up, but realize I can do this and keep going.
My struggle started when I was in middle school at Phoenix Country Day School. I had trouble staying focused in class and I always needed a tutor. I couldn’t get good grades without having a tutor by my side spoon feeding everything to me. I didn’t think much of it at the time. I thought it was because I was going through a rough time. In 7th and 8th grade, I struggled with depression and I was suicidal, so I thought that was the reason I was doing so poorly in school.
After moving on from PCDS, I went to Tesseract High School for 2 ½ years. Freshmen year was a blast and I did well in school and I established a ton of great friendships. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that everything went downhill both at school and at home. At the beginning of sophomore year, I dated this guy for not even a month. When we broke up, I was devastated and let him affect both my academic life and personal life. As a result, I took three months away from school and was home schooled. When I came back, I decided that I wanted to leave Tesseract for the remainder of my high school career. So my parents found a therapeutic boarding school in Eureka, Montana called Chrysalis.
Before heading to Chrysalis, I was diagnosed with Non-Verbal Learning Disorder. Non-Verbal Learning Disorder is a learning disability that affects both your social life and your academic life. People with non-verbal learning disorder talk a lot but sometimes not in a socially appropriate way. They have trouble with understanding social cues and communication that isn’t verbal such as body language and facial expressions. For me personally, it is hard to keep friendships. As this relates to school, I have a hard time with writing assignments. I know what I want to say but I don’t know how to phrase it appropriately. I found both academic and emotional success at Chrysalis and eventually graduated in 2012.
While I was at Chrysalis, my parents were concerned about me getting academic support for continuing my education. They found out about Northbridge and told me about it on one of our Skype calls. At first, I refused to come to Northbridge and fought with my parents about it for months. I thought I didn’t need the support. I met with a current student and one of the staff members named Audra and Abbey on one of my home visits. It took ice cream and a heart to heart conversation with Audra to convince me to give Northbridge a chance.
Since coming to Northbridge 4 years ago, I’ve had a lot of success academically and emotionally. I have been able to pass most of my classes with good grades with the help of my tutors. As an example, I’m currently taking a world mythology class which has a lot of reading and writing assignments. In my tutoring sessions, I’ve found that having a conversation with my tutor before answering the questions helps me remember things and phrase them correctly. I only have one scheduled tutoring session, but I know I can always receive extra support when I need it. I take advantage of the supportive atmosphere that Northbridge provides. Whenever I’m not at work or in class, I come to Northbridge. Over the years, Northbridge has also guided me to be more independent and taught me how to use my time more wisely outside of my tutoring sessions. I’ve also learned how to motivate myself to do what I can on my own instead of goof off on Facebook and be on my phone the whole time and act like I’m being productive. When I first got here 4 years ago, I depended on the tutor’s way too much. I would only be productive and get work done in my tutoring sessions. I would only work on homework with a tutor. I’m proud of myself because I’ve learned to not need a tutor to be productive. Yes, some assignments I need a tutor like math or my midterms, but I don’t need them all the time. On top of the academic support, I’ve found great emotional support with some of the tutors and other staff. When I’m feeling down or come in bawling my eyes out, I know that I can talk to the tutors and other staff members that I feel close with. Over the years, Northbridge has given me opportunities to be a leader especially this year. For example, this year another student, Miranda, and a tutor, Kelli, and I are thinking about holding a workshop for other students to teach them social skills and for them to get to know everyone. I’m also introducing Northbridge students to the fitness world. Since I’m an aspiring Zumba instructor, I’m trying to start Zumba classes for Northbridge students and staff and anyone else who wants to join the fun. Since I’ve been in college and at Northbridge for so long, I’m a good person to give advice to students and teach them how to survive college and the secrets to success.
In the past, I have experienced difficulties, but thanks to my hard work and NorthBridge’s support, I have more confidence in myself and my future is brighter. It seems like not too long ago I was depressed and didn’t see a bright future ahead of me. Now, everything is different. Until recently, I did not know what profession I wanted to go into, but now I know I want to be a surgical nurse. I am about to finish my associate’s degree at Scottsdale Community College. I then plan on transferring to a nursing program in the near future, because I want to help others by becoming a surgical nurse. I am thankful to my NorthBridge support system and to my parents for everything they do for me.