Edward Maza Wins Learning Ally National Achievement Award
By Mel Fabrikant Friday, January 10, 2014, 06:41 PM EST
Englewood resident proves dyslexia is no obstacle to educational success
Learning Ally, a 65-year-old nonprofit serving individuals with learning and visual disabilities, has bestowed its highest award to Edward Maza of Englewood, New Jersey. Maza is one of six students from across the U.S. who will receive cash awards of $6,000 and travel with their families to be honored at Learning Ally’s National Gala celebration in Washington, DC this April.
From an early age Maza struggled in school, particularly with reading and writing. Diagnostic testing in the third grade confirmed that he had dyslexia. “Learning that I had a disability made me feel damaged and isolated,” he recalls. “I will never forget the feeling that there was something wrong with my brain, that I was broken. But I was determined to overcome my challenges. I had to work twice as hard as everyone else to get half as far.”
Maza remembers that homework took him hours, though his friends finished in a few minutes. Through sheer effort and persistence, he was able to catch up with his classmates and excel in math and science, even graduating as the valedictorian of his middle school. His serious struggles with reading, however, lasted well into high school. “Every day I would walk into English with my head down hoping the class would go by without my teacher calling on me to read aloud,” he says. A turning point came when he began using human-narrated audiobooks from Learning Ally. “Reading that seemed totally daunting before became enjoyable, and I gained confidence, knowing I was finally able to keep up with class assignments.”
Despite his dyslexia, Maza has shined in a full range of academics and extracurricular activities, serving as the captain of his high school’s debate and swimming teams, and graduating with a 4.0 GPA. In February 2013 he was recognized by the White House for his role in developing a Teen Leadership Conference that brought diverse students to work together on social issues facing all teens, including eating disorders, teen pregnancy and more.
Most recently, at age 19, Maza is spending an exciting year studying abroad in Israel, and plans to start his freshman college year in 2014 pursuing American Studies at Yale University.
About the National Achievement Awards
Each year, Learning Ally (formerly known as Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic) honors exceptional students through the Marion Huber Learning Through Listening Awards, which were instituted in 1991 for high school seniors with learning differences such as dyslexia. Hundreds of students apply for these prestigious awards each year and are selected by committees of Learning Ally volunteers, board members, parents, educators, donors and staff. Students are recognized for their academic excellence, leadership, and service to others; each award winner has a long list of honors and accomplishments, and has graduated with a GPA above 3.0, with most near the 4.0 mark; and they have thrived on their education paths thanks in part to their use of accessible educational content and assistive technology provided by Learning Ally. For information about applying for Learning Ally’s National Achievement awards, visit http://NAA.LearningAlly.org/apply
About Learning Ally
Founded in 1948, Learning Ally serves thousands of K-12, college and graduate students, veterans and lifelong learners – all of whom cannot read standard print due to blindness, visual impairment, dyslexia, or other learning disabilities. Through its programs and audiobooks, Learning Ally enables families and schools to manage the needs of students with learning disabilities. The organization offers integrated learning management systems and professional development for teachers, as well as support for parents through personal consultations, webinars and other tools. In addition, Learning Ally’s collection of more than 80,000 human-narrated textbooks and literature titles can be downloaded on mainstream smartphones and tablets, and is the largest of its kind in the world. Several thousand volunteers help to produce the educational materials, which students rely on to achieve academic and professional success. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Learning Ally is partially funded by grants from state and local education programs, and the generous contributions of individuals, foundations and corporations. For more information, visit http://www.LearningAlly.org.