Heidi Belanger will be running the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in June of 2018 in support of TeamQuest and the International Dyslexia Association’s mission to help those who struggle to learn to read. Heidi wasn’t diagnosed with dyslexia until she was 17 years old, but through hard work, she graduated from high school as a member of the National Honor Society. In college, she began receiving support for dyslexia and went on to complete an internship in Washington, DC and graduated magna cum laude. Read on to hear a little bit of Heidi’s story.
To support Heidi’s fundraising run, please visit http://idysa.convio.net/goto/heidibelanger.
Photo courtesy of Bridgewater State University.
Step Stool for Success
by Heidi Belanger
“I want to do it myself!” I stood proudly at the bus stop, dressed in my favorite blue dress, brown Mary Janes, and an oversized Winnie the Pooh backpack.
My parents offered me a ride on the first day of kindergarten, but I convinced them to let me ride the school bus. They were concerned that I might not be able to reach the steps when getting onto the bus.
My father wanted to give me a quick boost, and brought a step stool to the bus stop.
I refused the offer and swung those tiny legs onto the first step. I wanted to succeed at my own pace, even if it meant hoisting myself onto the bus every day.
The bus steps became easier to climb, but it seemed that the “step stool” was probably needed once I entered the classroom. I maneuvered through the public school system with an undocumented learning disability for 10 years: dyslexia. It consisted of late night study sessions, frustration, and tears.
No matter how much I tried, the results never reflected my effort. It was the same struggle, different day.
My parents have always been there to help prepare and encourage me. Their presence was similar to the step stool—stable, consistent, supportive, and reliable. They raised me and my sisters to be independent, strong-willed and self-sufficient individuals.
In the midst of college applications, at the age of 17, I was officially diagnosed with dyslexia. Because I had always been my own advocate in the classroom, it was difficult to eventually swallow my pride and accept the accommodations. I experienced failure and disappointment often enough; it really helped me to understand what success felt like.
I started receiving academic accommodations in college and what a relief that was!
The workload became more challenging, but it felt manageable. The step stool had reappeared and this time I accepted it. I was not academically alone. Dyslexia did not define me. Dealing with it developed my character, strength, and ability to maneuver and overcome obstacles.
Since I finally felt comfortable in my own skin, I was energized and utilized every opportunity and resource available. I pledged my sorority, spent a semester interning in Washington, D.C., and graduated magna cum laude.
Behind every successful person is a team, a large crowd of supporters, cheering them at every milestone, whether it’s reaching the school bus, handling the workload at college, or landing a first full-time job.
The step stool symbolizes the team’s unconditional support that encouraged my personal success. I know their influence has greatly impacted my confidence, self-esteem, and advocacy for others. Every student should receive the support that I waited for.
In association with IDA and TeamQuest, I will be running the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon this summer to help provide a step stool for other students.
Heidi Belanger is an administrative assistant at M/C Partners. She is actively involved in her sorority, Delta Phi Epsilon, and has enjoyed running since high school. Heidi currently lives in Boston, Massachusetts.