The Bridge Academy students, Kesi Lewis and Adrienne Hopkins, were keynote speakers at the regional Dare to Dream Student Leadership Conference at Rider University on May 16, 2018. Bridge Student, Max Kaiser, entertained guests with a performance on his saxophone.
Dare to Dream is sponsored by the New Jersey Office of Special Education Programs and highlights strategies and information to prepare high school students with disabilities for college and career readiness.
The conference features keynote presentations from accomplished students and young adults with disabilities who have demonstrated exemplary self-advocacy and leadership skills.
Students discussed strategies they have used to overcome their learning challenges. Adrianne shared the importance of using the highlighting system that is taught at The Bridge Academy and assists students in breaking down large reading material into major points.
“We use three colors to highlight information; green is for the topic, pink is for the sub topic and yellow is for important facts,” explained Adrianne. “The system helps me to comprehend and recall material… this system helps me to remember the important bits and pieces. Now I can be in a larger class and still follow along with the material with less support from the teachers.”
Kesi talked about one of the positive reinforcement programs at The Bridge Academy and how that has helped motivate him in his educational studies.
“A way to keep me from getting bored and stay motivated has been the reward system at my school. For example, I made homework hall fame almost every month and as a reward will be able to go on the beach trip at the end of the year,” he shared. He also talked about the importance of having accommodations with his school work. “Accommodations and modifications have been important to me. It’s important for the teachers and me to be on the same page; and to have a clear mind when I am working is important.”
They both spoke about the importance of self-advocacy skills — from being present for their Individual Education Program (IEP), communicating with their teachers, and identifying their strengths in learning.
“Last year I participated in my IEP meeting for the first time. The teachers, my parents and I discussed my goals to support me and improve at school. I learned about expectations and my teachers gave me positive feedback,” explained Adrianne.
And in the end, they both had the same advice to never give up.
“Even in the worst of times, you can keep on going,” said Adrianne.
And Kesi summed up his experience to “remember to stay confident in what you know and believe in, and to stay consistent with what you are doing because that is the only way you will get better!”
The Bridge Academy is a non-profit school for students with language-based learning disabilities, like dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, ADHD and dysgraphia. It is located in Lawrenceville, NJ but serves students from over 32 school districts throughout New Jersey and Bucks County, PA. It is the only Orton-Gillingham accredited school in New Jersey and only one of 13 nationwide. For more information on the school, please call 609-844-0770 or www.banj.org.