On Wednesday, February 26, the day after Dyslexia Day at the Capitol, Ms. Noelle spoke before the Senate Education & Youth Committee regarding Senate Bill 386 and its possible impact on the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship (SB10). Her story, along with so many others, is so compelling that we wanted to share it. Below is her speech. If you would like your story featured, please EMAIL it, along with a picture.
“Thank you for taking the time to listen to me and my story.
“Let me introduce myself. I am Noelle Smith. I have a BA in Architectural Studies and a Master of Library and Information Science degree. I am a divorced mother of 3 young women, and we live in Acworth. My oldest daughter, Cheyenne, is studying to be a commercial pilot and graduated in 2011 from Harrison High School in Cobb County. My middle child, Charlotte, is a senior at Kennesaw State University and is studying Electrical Engineering and Mechatronics. She graduated in 2015 as valedictorian from Brookwood Christian School in Cobb County. My youngest, Collette, is a junior studying Neuroscience/pre-med at the Georgia Institute of Technology and graduated in 2018 as 4th in her class from Harrison High School. We were a military family for 22 years and stayed in Georgia after my ex retired from the Marine Corps.
“My daughter Charlotte and all the other children with learning disabilities are who I am here to represent today. Let me tell you Charlotte’s story. We had known since she was 5 that there was something going on with her ability to learn letters. They just did not make sense to her. I tried to have her tested at the schools we were at; however, this was immediately after 9/11 so we were transferred to Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana in quick succession. Charlotte received her first IEP in 2004 and a diagnosis of dyslexia.
“In 2006, we moved to Atlanta. Charlotte was in 4th grade. I immediately began the process of having a new IEP issued. At this point, she attended Vaughan Elementary in Powder Springs. She loved school but struggled because she was different and could not read more than simple words at this point. I knew unless she received intensive, one-on-one specialized instruction, she was going to be lost in the public school system and maybe never be able to read. I began to look for a school that specialized in helping students with learning disabilities. I found Brookwood Christian School in Acworth.
“Luckily, Charlotte had an IEP in place and the state of Georgia had just begun the SB10 program. This scholarship enabled me to place my child in a small school with specialized instruction and small classroom sizes. Best of all, all the students had a learning disability of some kind, so everyone was on a level playing field. She thrived.
“When Charlotte was in the 9th grade, my husband and I divorced. He was unwilling to help with her private education, so the SB10 scholarship literally saved my child. I am a teacher and my income was not enough to keep her in a private school. She was able to stay at Brookwood Christian School only because of the SB10 Scholarship. I knew fighting to keep her at Brookwood was worth all the hardships when she began reading books for pleasure. Now she is excelling at Kennesaw State University and has a 3.52 GPA.
“I fell into teaching because my child needed me, and as a teacher of students with learning disabilities, I have seen how the SB10 has changed lives. There are many success stories to hear. There could be many more. I have seen students that want to attend Brookwood Christian be unable to because their families were unable to pay the tuition. Many of these students had a 504. Many returned to the public school system in an attempt to obtain an IEP. Some were successful at gaining an IEP and were able to enter Brookwood Christian. I have seen several who were unable to obtain an IEP. I remember one such student who dropped out of school. I fear for him. He has fallen between the cracks.
“I ask that you please expand this program to include all children with disabilities; be a part of the success stories.
“I appreciate your time. Thank you.”
And THANK YOU Ms. Noelle, for taking the time to advocate for our students and other special needs students!
You can also read Mellie’s Story in our 2018-2019 Annual Report, and Blake’s Story in our 2017-2018 Annual Report, both are compelling, and the statistics for students who do not get appropriate reading instruction are grim, and outlined in the Progress Reports in both stories. You can also see the statistics regarding the success of our programs HERE.
#SayDyslexia #UntilEveryoneCanRead #1in5