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>  News Releases >   2007 >   June

Dartmouth student leads mentoring program for learning-disabled

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 06/05/07
Genevieve Haas • (603) 646-3661

Sarah Isbey '08
Sarah Isbey '08 (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

With a double major in biology and psychology, Sarah Isbey '08 has plenty to keep her busy on the Dartmouth campus. But the junior from Asheville, N.C. also plays an important role in the Hanover community. At Frances C. Richmond Middle School, Isbey coordinates the local chapter of Project Eye to Eye, an organization that helps local eighth graders with learning disabilities connect with college mentors, all of whom have learning disabilities or difficulties as well, to build self-esteem through art projects.

"It's helped me leave a mark on the Dartmouth community and the outside community in a positive way," Isbey said. "I think everyone wants to feel like they effected change."

Under Isbey's leadership, seven to eight Dartmouth mentors visit the school every Monday afternoon to meet with five mentees. The students work on art projects designed to promote self-expression, such as using paper maché to create globes that represent their worlds at school.

"I was amazed by her from the moment I spent time with her," Project Eye to Eye Co-Founder David Flink said. "She had a clear commitment to this issue."

He cites Isbey's clear leadership abilities and immediate commitment to Project Eye to Eye as reasons for his faith in the chapter's success. "A college student can say, 'I know exactly how you're feeling. And I can tell you, you're going to make it,'" Flink said, emphasizing the connections that developed easily between mentees and Dartmouth mentors.

During one of the Monday afternoon art projects, a 15-year-old mentee said he is inspired by the program, which has paired him with a Dartmouth student who shares his loves of math and science. "It partially brought me out of my shell," he said.

"Being presented with proof, I can't really say I'm not going to get to college with a learning disability, because here are all these people who did the same thing," he added.

Patti Dodds, the eighth grade learning specialist, was largely responsible for bringing Project Eye to Eye to the middle school.

"She's really organized and excited about the program and the curriculum," Dodds said of Isbey. "She takes a real interest in the kids. She has a real gift for this."

While Isbey herself is not diagnosed with a learning disability, she does have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, an attention-related disorder that often appears in children with learning disabilities to further impede learning. All of the Dartmouth mentors have some form of learning disability or challenge, a requirement of Project Eye to Eye that Isbey believes is essential so that the mentees can identify with their mentors.

After Project Eye to Eye ends for the school year, Isbey will be spending the summer working in Ghana for Unite for Sight, a non-profit organization that provides eye care to disadvantaged communities. The program will provide vision screening and institute education programs in northern Ghana, where one eye doctor serves two million people. Isbey, who hopes to become a pediatrician, seems unfazed by traveling over 5000 miles to spend her summer in a country where, although the official language is English, she will be confronted with language barriers in many of the more rural locations she will be serving. "A learning disability should never stop you from doing something you want to do," she said.

By LINZI SHELDON '07

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